CITY Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers 2022-08-12T22:12:51+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Joomla! - Open Source Content Management 30 Years After Rodney King, Bracing for Another Set of Verdicts 2021-04-20T04:00:00+00:00 2021-04-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/10402-30-years-after-rodney-king-bracing-floyd-chauvin-verdicts Hector Soto macconaghy2015.2@hotmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/april/police-comm-availability.jpg" alt="police comm availability" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>NYPD leaders (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The early 1990s trial of the Los Angeles police officers accused of assaulting Rodney King was the first major police trial involving videotape evidence of the police actions. King had led the police on a high-speed car chase subsequent to being suspected of driving while intoxicated. The approximately 13-minute video showed police officers repeatedly kicking and striking King with batons.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The trial of the four accused officers ended on April 29, 1992 with an acquittal of all the charges, the videotape of the King beating notwithstanding. The day following the acquittal, there was turmoil in Los Angeles. Ultimately, more than 60 people died, there were innumerable injuries, and scores of primarily Black and brown residents were arrested. The disturbances and uprisings were not limited to L.A.</p> <p>The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota over the death of George Floyd is currently running on a similar track as closing arguments are given this week. (The other former officers who have been charged in the incident will be tried separately.)</p> <p>We have <span id="link2736">see</span><span data-mce-json="{&quot;type&quot;:&quot;mce-text/javascript&quot;}"><!-- var link = document.getElementById('link2736');link.onclick = function(){document.location = link.getAttribute('href');}-->&nbsp;</span>n versions of this pattern play out many other times and in many other places since, including here in New York City over the death of Eric Garner and subsequent criminal justice process, which did not even make it to trial. Even as the Chuavin trial moves to closure, the recent killings by police of Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright churn our thoughts and emotions about policing and race relations.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The trial of Chauvin is critical in many ways. The jury of 14 (12 official jurors and two alternates, diverse in terms of race and gender) sitting in the courtroom will determine whether or not Chauvin is guilty of any or all of the charges he faces, and, if found guilty of any, Minnesota State Judge Peter Cahill will then be expected to impose a sentence reflective of the justice to be achieved.</p> <p>Whatever happens in Minnesota, nationally, we the members of the public, especially those of us from communities of color, will render a verdict on whether or not there is reason to now have more belief in the United States promise of fair and impartial treatment by the criminal justice system. From that perspective, Chauvin, the jurors, and Judge Cahill are the defendants. They have become the personification of policing and the process of justice in America.</p> <p>The jury’s verdicts will be tempered by the knowledge of the continuing incidents of police use of unnecessary and excessive force against people of color since the killing of George Floyd; by the calls for criminal justice reform pressed by the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters; by the impact of a pandemic that has forced society to see with unequivocal clearness its pervasive and racially-based inequities; and lastly but not least, by the socio-political wake of the violent, racially-tinged insurgency that took place in Washington, D.C. on January 6.</p> <p>The Chauvin verdicts will soon be rendered. Like the verdicts rendered by the jury and the public after the Rodney King trial, they will have serious short- and long-term social consequences and political repercussions. What will be different? It depends on what we have learned, if anything, during the past 30 years.</p> <p>***<br />Hector W. Soto is a lawyer, a professor of Law and Public Policy at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, and a member of the Board of Citizens Union. He&nbsp;is former Director of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), Director of the NYPD Department Advocate's Office, and Director of Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/april/police-comm-availability.jpg" alt="police comm availability" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>NYPD leaders (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The early 1990s trial of the Los Angeles police officers accused of assaulting Rodney King was the first major police trial involving videotape evidence of the police actions. King had led the police on a high-speed car chase subsequent to being suspected of driving while intoxicated. The approximately 13-minute video showed police officers repeatedly kicking and striking King with batons.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The trial of the four accused officers ended on April 29, 1992 with an acquittal of all the charges, the videotape of the King beating notwithstanding. The day following the acquittal, there was turmoil in Los Angeles. Ultimately, more than 60 people died, there were innumerable injuries, and scores of primarily Black and brown residents were arrested. The disturbances and uprisings were not limited to L.A.</p> <p>The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota over the death of George Floyd is currently running on a similar track as closing arguments are given this week. (The other former officers who have been charged in the incident will be tried separately.)</p> <p>We have <span id="link2736">see</span><span data-mce-json="{&quot;type&quot;:&quot;mce-text/javascript&quot;}"><!-- var link = document.getElementById('link2736');link.onclick = function(){document.location = link.getAttribute('href');}-->&nbsp;</span>n versions of this pattern play out many other times and in many other places since, including here in New York City over the death of Eric Garner and subsequent criminal justice process, which did not even make it to trial. Even as the Chuavin trial moves to closure, the recent killings by police of Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright churn our thoughts and emotions about policing and race relations.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The trial of Chauvin is critical in many ways. The jury of 14 (12 official jurors and two alternates, diverse in terms of race and gender) sitting in the courtroom will determine whether or not Chauvin is guilty of any or all of the charges he faces, and, if found guilty of any, Minnesota State Judge Peter Cahill will then be expected to impose a sentence reflective of the justice to be achieved.</p> <p>Whatever happens in Minnesota, nationally, we the members of the public, especially those of us from communities of color, will render a verdict on whether or not there is reason to now have more belief in the United States promise of fair and impartial treatment by the criminal justice system. From that perspective, Chauvin, the jurors, and Judge Cahill are the defendants. They have become the personification of policing and the process of justice in America.</p> <p>The jury’s verdicts will be tempered by the knowledge of the continuing incidents of police use of unnecessary and excessive force against people of color since the killing of George Floyd; by the calls for criminal justice reform pressed by the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters; by the impact of a pandemic that has forced society to see with unequivocal clearness its pervasive and racially-based inequities; and lastly but not least, by the socio-political wake of the violent, racially-tinged insurgency that took place in Washington, D.C. on January 6.</p> <p>The Chauvin verdicts will soon be rendered. Like the verdicts rendered by the jury and the public after the Rodney King trial, they will have serious short- and long-term social consequences and political repercussions. What will be different? It depends on what we have learned, if anything, during the past 30 years.</p> <p>***<br />Hector W. Soto is a lawyer, a professor of Law and Public Policy at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, and a member of the Board of Citizens Union. He&nbsp;is former Director of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), Director of the NYPD Department Advocate's Office, and Director of Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Choosing Our Next Mayor: The Most Important Issues New Yorkers Need to Hear About from the Candidates 2021-04-07T04:00:00+00:00 2021-04-07T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/10329-choosing-next-nyc-mayor-most-important-issues-new-yorkers-candidates Randy M. Mastro rmastro@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/february/us-bernie-choose.jpg" alt="us bernie choose" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Inauguration Day at City Hall (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>It's often said being Mayor of New York City is the second toughest job in America. The challenges of governing our nation's largest city are enormous, especially now in the wake of COVID-19, the racial justice movement, and increased crime and unemployment. And as the city seems to be tilting even more to the "progressive" left, I'm reminded of the sage advice of one of our greatest mayors, Fiorello LaGuardia, that "there's no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the trash." Competence matters, and we need it now more than ever.</p> <p>Leaving politics aside, any fair assessment of the last seven-plus years would have to acknowledge the shortcomings of the de Blasio administration. The barometer for judging the success of an incumbent (two-term) administration has become: "Are we better off today than we were eight years ago?" Today, few New Yorkers would answer in the affirmative. But also in fairness, Mayor de Blasio has had some notable successes in achieving his agenda. For example, he did end the "stop and frisk era," and he pushed the state into adopting universal pre-kindergarten. But there have also been major stumbles, such as the ethics scandals that nearly toppled the mayor and administration missteps during the coronavirus crisis, among others.</p> <p>So what should we be looking for in our next Mayor? An outsider with a fresh perspective (like entrepreneur Andrew Yang, banker Ray McGuire, or not-for-profit executive Dianne Morales)? A long-time public servant with lots of government experience (like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, or former Obama and Bloomberg administration official Shaun Donovan)? Or a de Blasio administration insider who left with reputation intact (like former counsel to the Mayor and CCRB Chair Maya Wiley or Garcia)?&nbsp;Or one of the high-profile Republican candidates long-involved in community organizing (like Fernando Mateo or Curtis Sliwa)?</p> <p>No matter which of them emerges as our next Mayor, these are the issues that will ultimately define their success, so you'll want to hear from the candidates now about how they'll address them.</p> <p><strong>Public Safety</strong><br />The paramount obligation of any administration is to maintain public safety and keep New Yorkers safe. Because of the enormous drops in major crime achieved during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, that issue <span id="link2736">see</span><span data-mce-json="{&quot;type&quot;:&quot;mce-text/javascript&quot;}"><!-- var link = document.getElementById('link2736');link.onclick = function(){document.location = link.getAttribute('href');}-->&nbsp;</span>med, in some sense, under control. Attention shifted further toward police-community relations and police policies that seemed to target people of color. But now, we are at a new crossroads, with violent crime rising again and still fractured relationships between police and communities. This is a particularly daunting task for our next Mayor -- to motivate police to keep us safe yet address the legitimate concerns of communities of color. The current Mayor appears to have alienated both police and communities. We have to do better, and we have to keep our City safe at the same time.</p> <p><strong>Economic Development</strong><br />It's still very much "about the economy, stupid." So much of the city's financial success and tax base comes from Wall Street, yet we are a most diverse city where income equity and unemployment remain confounding issues as well, and even more so since covid. Many who could left the city during this crisis, choosing to isolate elsewhere. Now, we need to get them back for the good of all New Yorkers. The challenge for the next Mayor is to strike the right balance between encouraging economic development and job growth, while also lifting up those struggling in our city.</p> <p>We need to get people back to the office, safely, and restore some sense of normalcy to our daily work lives. It takes a nuanced approach, an understanding that just raising taxes and spending more money doesn't necessarily solve problems; it can create new ones. I am among those to have suggested a major public works initiative like the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) that would directly create construction jobs and rebuild the city's crumbling infrastructure at the same time. That's a win-win. It's how a Mayor can smartly use the city's resources, leverage them into state and federal dollars, make prudent decisions, spend smart, and inspire New Yorkers to work together to achieve common goals good for all.</p> <p><strong>Public Education</strong><br />After winning Albany's approval for mayoral control of the public school system 20 years ago, we haven't done enough to capitalize on that opportunity, particularly during the de Blasio years. Good riddance to Chancellor Carranza, who wasted his tenure hiring cronies and trying to change something that wasn't broken -- our elite high schools. Providing a quality education for our children of every community is something we must do better to achieve. It is the great equalizer from which so much future opportunity flows.</p> <p>The next Mayor must put politics aside and appoint someone of proven competence in administering and improving large bureaucracies -- an Arne Duncan type -- whether or not an educator by background. And set your own course, instead of what the teachers union dictates to you. There's room for great charter schools and great traditional public schools in the same space. Embrace both. And commit to spending resources to improve bilingual education, so that children of every community have equal opportunity within our public school system. But one thing is certain: we have to do better than this for the sake of our children and the larger city.</p> <p><strong>Health Care</strong><br />The pandemic has caused us to appreciate how important our healthcare system is and how we need to ensure access to it for all. Our city's public hospital system is by far the largest in the country. Yet quality of care and access to care remain concerns. The rollout of vaccines is a perfect example. Why is it that affluent neighborhoods like the Upper East Side have a much higher vaccination rate than many poorer communities? That's a problem of administration. But it's also a problem of fundamental fairness. Like the public education system, we need administrators of proven competence to run our public hospital system and health department. New Yorkers should expect and deserve no less, and choose a Mayor who will manage well, including by appointing the right people.</p> <p><strong>Quality of Life</strong><br />I don't hear the mayoral candidates talking enough about “quality of life,” yet at its core, quality of life is what ultimately defines a city. Quality of life, of course, includes living in a safe place, having economic opportunity, being able to give your kids a decent education, and having access to good healthcare. But it also means much more.</p> <p>It means keeping streets clean, maintaining great parks for recreation, and fostering a sense of community that brings neighborhoods together and makes us optimistic about our future. But our quality of life now seems under siege. For example, we are grappling with how to help our vulnerable homeless fellow New Yorkers, who, during COVID, have increasingly been housed in inadequate SRO hotels without sufficient services, overwhelming certain neighborhoods. And there's a growing perception that our city is less safe today than it was eight years ago, that economic opportunities are harder to come by, and that our best days are&nbsp; behind us. So ask these candidates how important they think it is to improve quality of life in our city. That will tell you a lot about their priorities and understanding of what makes a city great.</p> <p><strong>Competence</strong><br />At bottom, the Mayor's job is about competence. Delivering services and achieving goals. Done right, it's a 24-7 job. The best Mayors make decisions on the merits, not politics, and they realize they have to work with state and federal officials to get things done for the good of the city. So take a good, hard look at these candidates, and ask yourself -- and them -- what is it about their record that qualifies them to run a $90-billion enterprise, manage a 330,000-person workforce, and serve the needs of 8-plus-million New Yorkers. Because, at the end of the day, there is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the trash.</p> <p>***<br />Randy M. Mastro is a litigation partner at Gibson Dunn and a former Deputy Mayor of New York City who chairs the Boards of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/february/us-bernie-choose.jpg" alt="us bernie choose" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Inauguration Day at City Hall (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>It's often said being Mayor of New York City is the second toughest job in America. The challenges of governing our nation's largest city are enormous, especially now in the wake of COVID-19, the racial justice movement, and increased crime and unemployment. And as the city seems to be tilting even more to the "progressive" left, I'm reminded of the sage advice of one of our greatest mayors, Fiorello LaGuardia, that "there's no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the trash." Competence matters, and we need it now more than ever.</p> <p>Leaving politics aside, any fair assessment of the last seven-plus years would have to acknowledge the shortcomings of the de Blasio administration. The barometer for judging the success of an incumbent (two-term) administration has become: "Are we better off today than we were eight years ago?" Today, few New Yorkers would answer in the affirmative. But also in fairness, Mayor de Blasio has had some notable successes in achieving his agenda. For example, he did end the "stop and frisk era," and he pushed the state into adopting universal pre-kindergarten. But there have also been major stumbles, such as the ethics scandals that nearly toppled the mayor and administration missteps during the coronavirus crisis, among others.</p> <p>So what should we be looking for in our next Mayor? An outsider with a fresh perspective (like entrepreneur Andrew Yang, banker Ray McGuire, or not-for-profit executive Dianne Morales)? A long-time public servant with lots of government experience (like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, or former Obama and Bloomberg administration official Shaun Donovan)? Or a de Blasio administration insider who left with reputation intact (like former counsel to the Mayor and CCRB Chair Maya Wiley or Garcia)?&nbsp;Or one of the high-profile Republican candidates long-involved in community organizing (like Fernando Mateo or Curtis Sliwa)?</p> <p>No matter which of them emerges as our next Mayor, these are the issues that will ultimately define their success, so you'll want to hear from the candidates now about how they'll address them.</p> <p><strong>Public Safety</strong><br />The paramount obligation of any administration is to maintain public safety and keep New Yorkers safe. Because of the enormous drops in major crime achieved during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, that issue <span id="link2736">see</span><span data-mce-json="{&quot;type&quot;:&quot;mce-text/javascript&quot;}"><!-- var link = document.getElementById('link2736');link.onclick = function(){document.location = link.getAttribute('href');}-->&nbsp;</span>med, in some sense, under control. Attention shifted further toward police-community relations and police policies that seemed to target people of color. But now, we are at a new crossroads, with violent crime rising again and still fractured relationships between police and communities. This is a particularly daunting task for our next Mayor -- to motivate police to keep us safe yet address the legitimate concerns of communities of color. The current Mayor appears to have alienated both police and communities. We have to do better, and we have to keep our City safe at the same time.</p> <p><strong>Economic Development</strong><br />It's still very much "about the economy, stupid." So much of the city's financial success and tax base comes from Wall Street, yet we are a most diverse city where income equity and unemployment remain confounding issues as well, and even more so since covid. Many who could left the city during this crisis, choosing to isolate elsewhere. Now, we need to get them back for the good of all New Yorkers. The challenge for the next Mayor is to strike the right balance between encouraging economic development and job growth, while also lifting up those struggling in our city.</p> <p>We need to get people back to the office, safely, and restore some sense of normalcy to our daily work lives. It takes a nuanced approach, an understanding that just raising taxes and spending more money doesn't necessarily solve problems; it can create new ones. I am among those to have suggested a major public works initiative like the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) that would directly create construction jobs and rebuild the city's crumbling infrastructure at the same time. That's a win-win. It's how a Mayor can smartly use the city's resources, leverage them into state and federal dollars, make prudent decisions, spend smart, and inspire New Yorkers to work together to achieve common goals good for all.</p> <p><strong>Public Education</strong><br />After winning Albany's approval for mayoral control of the public school system 20 years ago, we haven't done enough to capitalize on that opportunity, particularly during the de Blasio years. Good riddance to Chancellor Carranza, who wasted his tenure hiring cronies and trying to change something that wasn't broken -- our elite high schools. Providing a quality education for our children of every community is something we must do better to achieve. It is the great equalizer from which so much future opportunity flows.</p> <p>The next Mayor must put politics aside and appoint someone of proven competence in administering and improving large bureaucracies -- an Arne Duncan type -- whether or not an educator by background. And set your own course, instead of what the teachers union dictates to you. There's room for great charter schools and great traditional public schools in the same space. Embrace both. And commit to spending resources to improve bilingual education, so that children of every community have equal opportunity within our public school system. But one thing is certain: we have to do better than this for the sake of our children and the larger city.</p> <p><strong>Health Care</strong><br />The pandemic has caused us to appreciate how important our healthcare system is and how we need to ensure access to it for all. Our city's public hospital system is by far the largest in the country. Yet quality of care and access to care remain concerns. The rollout of vaccines is a perfect example. Why is it that affluent neighborhoods like the Upper East Side have a much higher vaccination rate than many poorer communities? That's a problem of administration. But it's also a problem of fundamental fairness. Like the public education system, we need administrators of proven competence to run our public hospital system and health department. New Yorkers should expect and deserve no less, and choose a Mayor who will manage well, including by appointing the right people.</p> <p><strong>Quality of Life</strong><br />I don't hear the mayoral candidates talking enough about “quality of life,” yet at its core, quality of life is what ultimately defines a city. Quality of life, of course, includes living in a safe place, having economic opportunity, being able to give your kids a decent education, and having access to good healthcare. But it also means much more.</p> <p>It means keeping streets clean, maintaining great parks for recreation, and fostering a sense of community that brings neighborhoods together and makes us optimistic about our future. But our quality of life now seems under siege. For example, we are grappling with how to help our vulnerable homeless fellow New Yorkers, who, during COVID, have increasingly been housed in inadequate SRO hotels without sufficient services, overwhelming certain neighborhoods. And there's a growing perception that our city is less safe today than it was eight years ago, that economic opportunities are harder to come by, and that our best days are&nbsp; behind us. So ask these candidates how important they think it is to improve quality of life in our city. That will tell you a lot about their priorities and understanding of what makes a city great.</p> <p><strong>Competence</strong><br />At bottom, the Mayor's job is about competence. Delivering services and achieving goals. Done right, it's a 24-7 job. The best Mayors make decisions on the merits, not politics, and they realize they have to work with state and federal officials to get things done for the good of the city. So take a good, hard look at these candidates, and ask yourself -- and them -- what is it about their record that qualifies them to run a $90-billion enterprise, manage a 330,000-person workforce, and serve the needs of 8-plus-million New Yorkers. Because, at the end of the day, there is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the trash.</p> <p>***<br />Randy M. Mastro is a litigation partner at Gibson Dunn and a former Deputy Mayor of New York City who chairs the Boards of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
New York’s Civic Education Crisis 2020-09-10T04:00:00+00:00 2020-09-10T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9727-new-york-city-civic-education-crisis-schools-democracy Michael A. Cardozo kolehmainen@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/mayor-along-hg.jpg" alt="mayor along hg" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Students register to vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote earlier this year: “We have come to take democracy for granted and civic education has fallen by the wayside. In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand US government, and the protections it provides us is ever more vital.”</p> <p>The Chief Justice’s warning resonates loudly today as we face an unprecedented crisis in democracy in our country. A President who consistently lies, threatens to postpone the upcoming election, prevents Congress from exercising its oversight responsibilities, and repeatedly ignores and violates the Rule of Law. At the same time fewer and fewer Americans seem to be meaningfully participating in, or even understand, how government works. A recent survey revealed that only 26% of Americans could name all three branches of government. In the 2018 general election New York ranked in the bottom quartile in the nation in voter turnout.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At the same time we face a related crisis that if not promptly addressed will exacerbate today’s democracy crisis. Specifically, New York provides to its students a frightening lack of adequate civic education -- teaching government (its history, its different branches, and how a law is passed) and training students through hands-on projects how to become engaged in public life.&nbsp;</p> <p>Participating in our democracy must begin by teaching students how democracy works and the importance of participation in that democracy. “The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens,” Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once wrote.</p> <p>This is not happening in New York. The only civic education requirement New York schools must meet is to offer a one-half unit credit in a government course, one credit in US history, and an 11th grade Regents exam in US history and government. There is no obligation that a student learn specific aspects of government, how to advocate for government to take action, or gain personal experience in advocacy.</p> <p>New York’s civic education requirements stand in sharp contrast to those of a number of other states that have recently substantially increased their civic education. Massachusetts, for example, now mandates various civic education courses and requires that every student engage in at least one civic activity. Massachusetts has also established a trust fund to help localities cover the cost of meeting these requirements.</p> <p>Both New York State and City have begun to take modest steps to address their deficiencies in this area.</p> <p>Two years ago New York City created a Civics for All initiative designed to focus on interactive projects that students might undertake to better learn how government works. At about the same time the State created a Civic Readiness Task Force that has proposed a series of recommendations that would require students to complete an action project in civics or social justice. But even if these recommendations are enacted they are not nearly enough. In particular there are no requirements that schools adopt the proposed programs and mandate that all students engage in them, and, with the exception of a $1 million state appropriation, no funds have been provided to help schools train teachers and otherwise implement the programs.</p> <p>At the present time the lack of adequate civic education has been filled in part by some excellent programs offered by certain nonprofits. But those programs themselves are hampered both by lack of funds and because they reach a relatively small percentage of all students.</p> <p>There is, however, much more that many outside the school system could do – but most are presently not doing – to advance civic education. Individual judges, for example, could invite students to their courtrooms to observe judicial proceedings, and spend time with students, both in near-by schools and when the students visit their courtrooms, explaining the judicial system to them. In fact, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, recognizing, to use the words of the United States Judicial Conference, that “civic education is an important component of judicial service,” is taking the nationwide lead in doing just that.</p> <p>Bar associations could offer – but unfortunately only a few are doing so today – a variety of civic education programs, ranging from mock trial and moot court activities to meeting with students to explain the justice system. Attorneys could volunteer their time to coach mock trial and moot court teams. In addition, attorneys and civic association representatives could visit classrooms to explain to students what civic engagement is and work with students on particular civic projects. And companies and law firms could support these civic efforts both financially and by sponsoring their own civic education projects.</p> <p>The problem raised by this crisis in civic education must be addressed promptly. As can be seen in the events unfolding in Washington, D.C. every day, our democracy is under attack and we need more participation to make it stronger. We must take immediate steps to educate future voters -- students today -- and let them discover how government works, think about how democracy should work, and, by encouraging their actual experience in civic projects, learn how to participate in it.</p> <p>***<br />Michael A. Cardozo is a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and a member of the Board of Citizens Union. He served as Corporation Counsel under Mayor Bloomberg from 2002 to 2013.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/mayor-along-hg.jpg" alt="mayor along hg" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Students register to vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote earlier this year: “We have come to take democracy for granted and civic education has fallen by the wayside. In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand US government, and the protections it provides us is ever more vital.”</p> <p>The Chief Justice’s warning resonates loudly today as we face an unprecedented crisis in democracy in our country. A President who consistently lies, threatens to postpone the upcoming election, prevents Congress from exercising its oversight responsibilities, and repeatedly ignores and violates the Rule of Law. At the same time fewer and fewer Americans seem to be meaningfully participating in, or even understand, how government works. A recent survey revealed that only 26% of Americans could name all three branches of government. In the 2018 general election New York ranked in the bottom quartile in the nation in voter turnout.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At the same time we face a related crisis that if not promptly addressed will exacerbate today’s democracy crisis. Specifically, New York provides to its students a frightening lack of adequate civic education -- teaching government (its history, its different branches, and how a law is passed) and training students through hands-on projects how to become engaged in public life.&nbsp;</p> <p>Participating in our democracy must begin by teaching students how democracy works and the importance of participation in that democracy. “The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens,” Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once wrote.</p> <p>This is not happening in New York. The only civic education requirement New York schools must meet is to offer a one-half unit credit in a government course, one credit in US history, and an 11th grade Regents exam in US history and government. There is no obligation that a student learn specific aspects of government, how to advocate for government to take action, or gain personal experience in advocacy.</p> <p>New York’s civic education requirements stand in sharp contrast to those of a number of other states that have recently substantially increased their civic education. Massachusetts, for example, now mandates various civic education courses and requires that every student engage in at least one civic activity. Massachusetts has also established a trust fund to help localities cover the cost of meeting these requirements.</p> <p>Both New York State and City have begun to take modest steps to address their deficiencies in this area.</p> <p>Two years ago New York City created a Civics for All initiative designed to focus on interactive projects that students might undertake to better learn how government works. At about the same time the State created a Civic Readiness Task Force that has proposed a series of recommendations that would require students to complete an action project in civics or social justice. But even if these recommendations are enacted they are not nearly enough. In particular there are no requirements that schools adopt the proposed programs and mandate that all students engage in them, and, with the exception of a $1 million state appropriation, no funds have been provided to help schools train teachers and otherwise implement the programs.</p> <p>At the present time the lack of adequate civic education has been filled in part by some excellent programs offered by certain nonprofits. But those programs themselves are hampered both by lack of funds and because they reach a relatively small percentage of all students.</p> <p>There is, however, much more that many outside the school system could do – but most are presently not doing – to advance civic education. Individual judges, for example, could invite students to their courtrooms to observe judicial proceedings, and spend time with students, both in near-by schools and when the students visit their courtrooms, explaining the judicial system to them. In fact, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, recognizing, to use the words of the United States Judicial Conference, that “civic education is an important component of judicial service,” is taking the nationwide lead in doing just that.</p> <p>Bar associations could offer – but unfortunately only a few are doing so today – a variety of civic education programs, ranging from mock trial and moot court activities to meeting with students to explain the justice system. Attorneys could volunteer their time to coach mock trial and moot court teams. In addition, attorneys and civic association representatives could visit classrooms to explain to students what civic engagement is and work with students on particular civic projects. And companies and law firms could support these civic efforts both financially and by sponsoring their own civic education projects.</p> <p>The problem raised by this crisis in civic education must be addressed promptly. As can be seen in the events unfolding in Washington, D.C. every day, our democracy is under attack and we need more participation to make it stronger. We must take immediate steps to educate future voters -- students today -- and let them discover how government works, think about how democracy should work, and, by encouraging their actual experience in civic projects, learn how to participate in it.</p> <p>***<br />Michael A. Cardozo is a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and a member of the Board of Citizens Union. He served as Corporation Counsel under Mayor Bloomberg from 2002 to 2013.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
New York Should Amend the Law Requiring Police Disciplinary Cases Be Tried Within the Police Department 2020-08-18T04:00:00+00:00 2020-08-18T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9684-new-york-amend-law-requiring-police-disciplinary-cases-tried-within-nypd Frederick P. Schaffer fschaffer@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/jondeli-rem-am.jpg" alt="jondeli rem am" width="600" /></p> <p>NYPD officers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>During its most recent session, the State Legislature enacted and the Governor signed a number of important reforms relating to police misconduct, most notably the repeal of Section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law, which prevented disclosure of any documents relating to the disciplinary records of police officers. Another law, however, which remains in effect, requires disciplinary hearings against police officers to be heard within the police department and thus prohibits such hearings to be conducted before an independent tribunal. The Legislature should amend the law to remove that prohibition.</p> <p>New York State Unconsolidated Laws Section 891, which dates back to 1940, provides the procedures for the removal of police officers “serving in the competitive class of civil service in any city, county, town or village of the state.” One of its provisions states: “Hearings upon charges pursuant to this act shall be held by the officer or body having the power to remove the person charged with incompetency or misconduct or by a deputy or other employee of such officer or body designated in writing for that purpose.”</p> <p>Although the statute deals with procedures for the removal of a police officer, one appellate court has ruled that it prohibits any disciplinary proceeding from being heard outside of the police department, whether or not the penalty of termination is sought or is a possible outcome of the process. See Lynch v. Giuliani, 301 A.D.2d 351, 356-57 (1st Dept. 2003). The history of that case is instructive.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2001, during the last year of&nbsp; the Giuliani administration, the New York Police Department entered&nbsp; into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Civilian Complaint Review Board whereby the CCRB was delegated exclusive authority to prosecute cases in which it had substantiated the charges and specifications. The MOU also provided that hearings on those matters would take place before the Office of Administrative Tribunals and Hearings rather than within the NYPD. The Police Benevolent Association, led by Patrick Lynch, sued to challenge the validity of the MOU with its primary focus on the delegation of the prosecutorial function to the CCRB; however, the lawsuit also challenged the transfer of hearings to OATH.</p> <p>The lower court upheld both provisions but modified the latter, holding that because of Section 891, any case in which termination was a possibility had to be heard within the NYPD. The Appellate Division affirmed the holding that delegation of prosecutorial authority to the CCRB was lawful, but reversed with regard to hearings before OATH, ruling that all such matters must be heard within the NYPD whether or not termination was a possible outcome of the disciplinary process. Neither party appealed.</p> <p>As a result, all disciplinary proceedings against police officers continue to be heard within the NYPD before administrative hearing officers who are appointed by the Police Commissioner and serve at the commissioner’s pleasure. This is in contrast to all other New York City agencies for which disciplinary cases against employees (including uniformed employees) are heard before OATH judges who serve for fixed terms and are not answerable to the agency head whose employees are the subject of the hearing. Thus, the officials within the NYPD who hear and make recommendations with respect to disciplinary cases against police officers lack the independence and job security of the administrative law judges within OATH who hear and decide such matters in disciplinary cases involving all other city employees.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to suggest that the NYPD administrative hearings officers are not persons of quality. Some are outstanding. Most notably, Rosemary Maldonado, the Deputy Commissioner of Trials, conducted a fair and dignified hearing of the case of Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer whose chokehold resulted in the death of Eric Garner, and issued a thorough and balanced report that recommended his termination. However, the proper handling of one high-profile disciplinary proceeding does not obviate the structural flaw in the system. Public confidence in the disciplinary process would be enhanced if the disciplinary hearings for police officers, like those for all other city employees, were conducted before the independent administrative law judges of OATH rather than within the NYPD.</p> <p>In order to achieve that result, the State Legislature should amend Section 891 to remove the sentence requiring police disciplinary hearings to be conducted within the police department.</p> <p>***<br />Frederick P. Schaffer is a Director of Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/jondeli-rem-am.jpg" alt="jondeli rem am" width="600" /></p> <p>NYPD officers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>During its most recent session, the State Legislature enacted and the Governor signed a number of important reforms relating to police misconduct, most notably the repeal of Section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law, which prevented disclosure of any documents relating to the disciplinary records of police officers. Another law, however, which remains in effect, requires disciplinary hearings against police officers to be heard within the police department and thus prohibits such hearings to be conducted before an independent tribunal. The Legislature should amend the law to remove that prohibition.</p> <p>New York State Unconsolidated Laws Section 891, which dates back to 1940, provides the procedures for the removal of police officers “serving in the competitive class of civil service in any city, county, town or village of the state.” One of its provisions states: “Hearings upon charges pursuant to this act shall be held by the officer or body having the power to remove the person charged with incompetency or misconduct or by a deputy or other employee of such officer or body designated in writing for that purpose.”</p> <p>Although the statute deals with procedures for the removal of a police officer, one appellate court has ruled that it prohibits any disciplinary proceeding from being heard outside of the police department, whether or not the penalty of termination is sought or is a possible outcome of the process. See Lynch v. Giuliani, 301 A.D.2d 351, 356-57 (1st Dept. 2003). The history of that case is instructive.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2001, during the last year of&nbsp; the Giuliani administration, the New York Police Department entered&nbsp; into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Civilian Complaint Review Board whereby the CCRB was delegated exclusive authority to prosecute cases in which it had substantiated the charges and specifications. The MOU also provided that hearings on those matters would take place before the Office of Administrative Tribunals and Hearings rather than within the NYPD. The Police Benevolent Association, led by Patrick Lynch, sued to challenge the validity of the MOU with its primary focus on the delegation of the prosecutorial function to the CCRB; however, the lawsuit also challenged the transfer of hearings to OATH.</p> <p>The lower court upheld both provisions but modified the latter, holding that because of Section 891, any case in which termination was a possibility had to be heard within the NYPD. The Appellate Division affirmed the holding that delegation of prosecutorial authority to the CCRB was lawful, but reversed with regard to hearings before OATH, ruling that all such matters must be heard within the NYPD whether or not termination was a possible outcome of the disciplinary process. Neither party appealed.</p> <p>As a result, all disciplinary proceedings against police officers continue to be heard within the NYPD before administrative hearing officers who are appointed by the Police Commissioner and serve at the commissioner’s pleasure. This is in contrast to all other New York City agencies for which disciplinary cases against employees (including uniformed employees) are heard before OATH judges who serve for fixed terms and are not answerable to the agency head whose employees are the subject of the hearing. Thus, the officials within the NYPD who hear and make recommendations with respect to disciplinary cases against police officers lack the independence and job security of the administrative law judges within OATH who hear and decide such matters in disciplinary cases involving all other city employees.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to suggest that the NYPD administrative hearings officers are not persons of quality. Some are outstanding. Most notably, Rosemary Maldonado, the Deputy Commissioner of Trials, conducted a fair and dignified hearing of the case of Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer whose chokehold resulted in the death of Eric Garner, and issued a thorough and balanced report that recommended his termination. However, the proper handling of one high-profile disciplinary proceeding does not obviate the structural flaw in the system. Public confidence in the disciplinary process would be enhanced if the disciplinary hearings for police officers, like those for all other city employees, were conducted before the independent administrative law judges of OATH rather than within the NYPD.</p> <p>In order to achieve that result, the State Legislature should amend Section 891 to remove the sentence requiring police disciplinary hearings to be conducted within the police department.</p> <p>***<br />Frederick P. Schaffer is a Director of Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
11 Keys to Make Policing Work 2020-08-14T04:00:00+00:00 2020-08-14T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9672-11-keys-to-make-policing-work-nypd-reform Richard J. Davis rjdavis@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/chief-department-avail.jpg" alt="chief department avail" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>When considering the requirements for effective policing I am reminded of two of my experiences.</p> <p>First, I served on a commission to review the operations of the Philadelphia Police Department after the departure of Mayor Frank Rizzo, a man whose approach both in that office and in his prior role as Police Commissioner could be fairly thought of as racist. Among the core findings of that commission was that the Police Department had consistently devoted insufficient resources to policing minority communities, and instead focused on the safety of the business district and other neighborhoods.</p> <p>Then in the early 1990s I was working with communities of color in the area surrounding the northern part of New York City’s Central Park on public safety issues by, among other things, organizing meetings between local residents and local police officials. At one of these meetings a woman got up and in a strong voice made two points: she first complained about local patrol officers spending too much time in the safest places (eg, in front of churches) rather than actively patrolling higher risk areas, and second she complained about the police harassing her teenage son.</p> <p>She was right — everyone is entitled to a police department that both works to provide them with the benefits of living in a safe neighborhood and, as the Black Lives Matter movement so justifiably demands, neither abuses nor discriminates against anyone. And public policy needs to advance both goals by promoting reform without sacrificing safety.</p> <p>There have been numerous studies of policing, but without the need for still more commissions there are certain things that plainly are necessary components of effective policing, including the following;</p> <p>1. Have clear standards of conduct. When the rules are clear it benefits police officers and the public. Those rules, however, must reflect the realities that good police officers may confront. Thus, for example, there should be a ban on chokeholds, but there also should be an exception for when the officer would be entitled to fire his weapon under a use of force standard. Putting a knee on someone’s throat as a means of restraint, as was done to George Floyd, is plainly wrong, but briefly putting one’s knee on someone’s throat in a struggle over a gun is very different.</p> <p>2. Ban arrest and summons quotas. Quotas are unfair to officers and incentivize questionable police actions.</p> <p>3. Monitor problem officers. It is important to monitor officers with large numbers of complaints, even where they all do not produce adjudicated findings of wrongdoing. While a large number of complaints may be made against an officer in retaliation for an officer simply effectively doing his or her job, the opposite may also be true. Thus, requiring that the conduct of officers with a defined number of complaints be reviewed in a non-disciplinary context could lead to retraining, reassignment, a pointed conversation with a precinct commander, or no action at all.</p> <p>4. Training is essential. Not only does there generally need to be effective in-service training, but, as some police departments are doing, there needs to be extensive de-escalation training. Police officers generally are taught that they need to maintain control of all situations; they need to learn how sometimes the right answer is de-escalating, particularly when dealing with non-serious offenses or with people exhibiting signs of mental illness. Rookies also should not be assigned to training officers who have been the recipients of large numbers of complaints, which was what happened with the new officers in the George Floyd case.</p> <p>5. An effective disciplinary system improves the force. Disciplinary systems need to be fair to the officers but also transparent to the public, so that how a department is addressing wrongdoing is not a secret. They also need to be timely. In serious cases police departments often agree to requests from prosecutors to await the conclusion of criminal proceedings before acting. But when, as in the Eric Garner case that produced a five-year delay, the process moves slowly, confidence in the police department is undermined. Reasonable time limits thus need to be put on these agreements to delay.</p> <p>6. Pursue diversity. It is important that police forces reflect the communities they serve so they do not have the appearance of an occupying army.</p> <p>7. Community engagement helps. As discussed in the Obama Administration’s report on Policing in the 21st Century, police officers and the community should interact outside the enforcement context. Activities could include youth police academies, a structure to include police and community leaders in the development of approaches to local crime problems, youth programs, and more.</p> <p>8. Encourage restorative justice. Non-arrest approaches should be used to deal with minor offenses, particularly involving young people .</p> <p>9. Use technology. Expanding the use of body cameras not only can protect against police abuses, but can help defeat wrongful complaints against officers.</p> <p>10. Limit qualified immunity. Police officers should only have the ability to avoid having to defend the appropriateness of their conduct under the qualified immunity doctrine if they comply with all applicable standards of conduct.</p> <p>11. Carefully evaluate police funding. Putting aside the political wisdom of using “defund the police” as a slogan, it is not the way to address police funding from a policy perspective. While police departments cannot be immune from budget cuts during a fiscal crisis, in general we need to decide what we want the police to do and fund them accordingly. More police officers on the streets, for example, was one of the reasons crime was reduced in New York City in the 1990s.</p> <p>If we want enhanced training, better supervision, enough officers out in the community, protection against terrorist attacks, and more, we need to provide appropriate levels of funding. The real answer is not just reducing police budgets, but making sure we adequately fund mental health and drug treatment programs, jobs programs, homeless prevention programs, and the like. Making more people feel that their needs are being addressed and that they have a stake in society means fewer people will resort to crime.</p> <p>Having police forces that both protect residents’ safety and their other rights is not easy. It is, however, essential. Indeed, having a criminal justice system that is commonly believed to be fair is critical if we want the public to accept the outcomes of that system as legitimate.</p> <p>***<br />Richard J. Davis served Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement and Operations (1977-81) and Chair of the New York Commission to Combat Police Corruption (1996-2001).</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/chief-department-avail.jpg" alt="chief department avail" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

</p> <p>When considering the requirements for effective policing I am reminded of two of my experiences.</p> <p>First, I served on a commission to review the operations of the Philadelphia Police Department after the departure of Mayor Frank Rizzo, a man whose approach both in that office and in his prior role as Police Commissioner could be fairly thought of as racist. Among the core findings of that commission was that the Police Department had consistently devoted insufficient resources to policing minority communities, and instead focused on the safety of the business district and other neighborhoods.</p> <p>Then in the early 1990s I was working with communities of color in the area surrounding the northern part of New York City’s Central Park on public safety issues by, among other things, organizing meetings between local residents and local police officials. At one of these meetings a woman got up and in a strong voice made two points: she first complained about local patrol officers spending too much time in the safest places (eg, in front of churches) rather than actively patrolling higher risk areas, and second she complained about the police harassing her teenage son.</p> <p>She was right — everyone is entitled to a police department that both works to provide them with the benefits of living in a safe neighborhood and, as the Black Lives Matter movement so justifiably demands, neither abuses nor discriminates against anyone. And public policy needs to advance both goals by promoting reform without sacrificing safety.</p> <p>There have been numerous studies of policing, but without the need for still more commissions there are certain things that plainly are necessary components of effective policing, including the following;</p> <p>1. Have clear standards of conduct. When the rules are clear it benefits police officers and the public. Those rules, however, must reflect the realities that good police officers may confront. Thus, for example, there should be a ban on chokeholds, but there also should be an exception for when the officer would be entitled to fire his weapon under a use of force standard. Putting a knee on someone’s throat as a means of restraint, as was done to George Floyd, is plainly wrong, but briefly putting one’s knee on someone’s throat in a struggle over a gun is very different.</p> <p>2. Ban arrest and summons quotas. Quotas are unfair to officers and incentivize questionable police actions.</p> <p>3. Monitor problem officers. It is important to monitor officers with large numbers of complaints, even where they all do not produce adjudicated findings of wrongdoing. While a large number of complaints may be made against an officer in retaliation for an officer simply effectively doing his or her job, the opposite may also be true. Thus, requiring that the conduct of officers with a defined number of complaints be reviewed in a non-disciplinary context could lead to retraining, reassignment, a pointed conversation with a precinct commander, or no action at all.</p> <p>4. Training is essential. Not only does there generally need to be effective in-service training, but, as some police departments are doing, there needs to be extensive de-escalation training. Police officers generally are taught that they need to maintain control of all situations; they need to learn how sometimes the right answer is de-escalating, particularly when dealing with non-serious offenses or with people exhibiting signs of mental illness. Rookies also should not be assigned to training officers who have been the recipients of large numbers of complaints, which was what happened with the new officers in the George Floyd case.</p> <p>5. An effective disciplinary system improves the force. Disciplinary systems need to be fair to the officers but also transparent to the public, so that how a department is addressing wrongdoing is not a secret. They also need to be timely. In serious cases police departments often agree to requests from prosecutors to await the conclusion of criminal proceedings before acting. But when, as in the Eric Garner case that produced a five-year delay, the process moves slowly, confidence in the police department is undermined. Reasonable time limits thus need to be put on these agreements to delay.</p> <p>6. Pursue diversity. It is important that police forces reflect the communities they serve so they do not have the appearance of an occupying army.</p> <p>7. Community engagement helps. As discussed in the Obama Administration’s report on Policing in the 21st Century, police officers and the community should interact outside the enforcement context. Activities could include youth police academies, a structure to include police and community leaders in the development of approaches to local crime problems, youth programs, and more.</p> <p>8. Encourage restorative justice. Non-arrest approaches should be used to deal with minor offenses, particularly involving young people .</p> <p>9. Use technology. Expanding the use of body cameras not only can protect against police abuses, but can help defeat wrongful complaints against officers.</p> <p>10. Limit qualified immunity. Police officers should only have the ability to avoid having to defend the appropriateness of their conduct under the qualified immunity doctrine if they comply with all applicable standards of conduct.</p> <p>11. Carefully evaluate police funding. Putting aside the political wisdom of using “defund the police” as a slogan, it is not the way to address police funding from a policy perspective. While police departments cannot be immune from budget cuts during a fiscal crisis, in general we need to decide what we want the police to do and fund them accordingly. More police officers on the streets, for example, was one of the reasons crime was reduced in New York City in the 1990s.</p> <p>If we want enhanced training, better supervision, enough officers out in the community, protection against terrorist attacks, and more, we need to provide appropriate levels of funding. The real answer is not just reducing police budgets, but making sure we adequately fund mental health and drug treatment programs, jobs programs, homeless prevention programs, and the like. Making more people feel that their needs are being addressed and that they have a stake in society means fewer people will resort to crime.</p> <p>Having police forces that both protect residents’ safety and their other rights is not easy. It is, however, essential. Indeed, having a criminal justice system that is commonly believed to be fair is critical if we want the public to accept the outcomes of that system as legitimate.</p> <p>***<br />Richard J. Davis served Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement and Operations (1977-81) and Chair of the New York Commission to Combat Police Corruption (1996-2001).</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
No, Trump Can’t Postpone the Election, But Congress Needs to Fund It 2020-08-04T04:00:00+00:00 2020-08-04T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9652-trump-cant-postpone-2020-presidential-election-congress-needs-funding Richard Briffault rbriffault@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/participate-electoral-college.jpg" alt="participate electoral college" width="600" /></p> <p>Electors to the Electoral College voting in Albany (photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>In a tweet posted at 8:46 a.m. on July 30, President Trump floated the idea of postponing this fall’s general election. Once again making baseless charges against the integrity of mail-in voting, Trump tweeted – the three question marks are his – “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Well, Trump cannot postpone the election. There is no reason to postpone the election. But Congress must act to assure the legitimacy of this fall’s vote.</p> <p>First, and most importantly, the President has no power to set, modify, or alter the date of the election. That date – which governs elections for the Senate and House of Representatives as well as for President – is set by Congress. Since 1875, that date, as we all know, is the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which this year is November 3.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>With respect to the Presidency, Congress has further elaborated by statute the schedule for the casting and counting of the votes by the Electoral College, which, as we were reminded in 2000 and again in 2016, actually picks the President. By law, the electors are required to meet in their home states and cast their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is December 14.</p> <p>By law, Congress meets on January 6 to count the electoral votes, declare a winner, or resolve any disputes. And under the Constitution, the President’s term ends at noon on January 20, 2021. Any change to Election Day or the schedule for the casting and counting of electoral votes would require an act of Congress. Any change to the expiration of the presidential term would require a constitutional amendment. The first, which would require approval by the Democratic House of Representatives, is extremely unlikely. The second, which would require approval by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states, is virtually impossible.</p> <p>The President has no national emergency power to stop or reschedule the election. As just noted, the election dates are determined by Congress and the actual operation of the election is conducted by the states and local governments, subject to congressional revision. The President has no power to change that.</p> <p>Second, there is no reason to postpone the election, even if at this stage it were legally possible. COVID-19 is surely a hugely disruptive and tragic event, but we have stuck to the electoral schedule during even greater crises. Presidential and congressional elections were held as scheduled in 1864, at the height of the Civil War. Indeed, absentee voting was first pioneered during the Civil War to allow Union army soldiers to vote from the battle front.</p> <p>Presidential and congressional elections were again held as scheduled in 1944, during the peak of fighting during World War II, with millions of soldiers around the world able to participate. And the congressional elections of 1918 were held as scheduled even as both the influenza pandemic and World War I raged.</p> <p>Regularly scheduled elections are perhaps the most important feature of our democracy. Like past disasters, COVID-19 is a challenge to be addressed, not an excuse for cancelling democracy.</p> <p>Third, however, it will require action by Congress for the COVID-19 election to succeed. Despite the president’s tweets, vote-by-mail has a proven track record of integrity and effectiveness. Even before COVID-19, roughly 20 percent of ballots cast in recent federal elections were submitted by mail, and in five states elections are conducted virtually entirely by mail. But these states took time to transition from polling-place voting to address some of the problems mail-in voting raises, including verifying signatures, getting ballots out and back on time, and tabulating the results.</p> <p>The unprecedented surge in mail-in voting in place of traditional voting in primaries this spring and summer raised a lot of these problems in states around the country. Dealing with them will require getting and testing new equipment, training election workers, preparing the postal service, and educating voters. All this will require a major administrative effort by state and local election administrators, and it will also require money.</p> <p>Congress is currently struggling over the latest COVID relief bill. The House bill – passed in May – offers states and local governments $3.6 billion in election assistance funds, which are essential for smoothing the transition to mail-in voting as well as for proving election administrators with the money necessary to make polling places safe and sanitary for the many millions of voters who will want to vote in person, whether at early voting election centers or at polling places on Election Day. The latest Senate Republican proposal has NO money for election assistance.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is certainly understandable why Congress should focus its concern on the unemployed, small business, and essential workers. But democracy is also essential, and surely a few billion of the trillion dollars or more than Congress will eventually appropriate must be allocated to protecting democracy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Congress’ failure to appropriate the funds needed to pay for the transition to mail voting and making polling places safe and sanitary would mark a greater threat to the legitimacy of the 2020 election than any of the president’s tweets.</p> <p>***<br />Richard Briffault is the Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School and Vice Chair of Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/participate-electoral-college.jpg" alt="participate electoral college" width="600" /></p> <p>Electors to the Electoral College voting in Albany (photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>In a tweet posted at 8:46 a.m. on July 30, President Trump floated the idea of postponing this fall’s general election. Once again making baseless charges against the integrity of mail-in voting, Trump tweeted – the three question marks are his – “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Well, Trump cannot postpone the election. There is no reason to postpone the election. But Congress must act to assure the legitimacy of this fall’s vote.</p> <p>First, and most importantly, the President has no power to set, modify, or alter the date of the election. That date – which governs elections for the Senate and House of Representatives as well as for President – is set by Congress. Since 1875, that date, as we all know, is the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which this year is November 3.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>With respect to the Presidency, Congress has further elaborated by statute the schedule for the casting and counting of the votes by the Electoral College, which, as we were reminded in 2000 and again in 2016, actually picks the President. By law, the electors are required to meet in their home states and cast their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is December 14.</p> <p>By law, Congress meets on January 6 to count the electoral votes, declare a winner, or resolve any disputes. And under the Constitution, the President’s term ends at noon on January 20, 2021. Any change to Election Day or the schedule for the casting and counting of electoral votes would require an act of Congress. Any change to the expiration of the presidential term would require a constitutional amendment. The first, which would require approval by the Democratic House of Representatives, is extremely unlikely. The second, which would require approval by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states, is virtually impossible.</p> <p>The President has no national emergency power to stop or reschedule the election. As just noted, the election dates are determined by Congress and the actual operation of the election is conducted by the states and local governments, subject to congressional revision. The President has no power to change that.</p> <p>Second, there is no reason to postpone the election, even if at this stage it were legally possible. COVID-19 is surely a hugely disruptive and tragic event, but we have stuck to the electoral schedule during even greater crises. Presidential and congressional elections were held as scheduled in 1864, at the height of the Civil War. Indeed, absentee voting was first pioneered during the Civil War to allow Union army soldiers to vote from the battle front.</p> <p>Presidential and congressional elections were again held as scheduled in 1944, during the peak of fighting during World War II, with millions of soldiers around the world able to participate. And the congressional elections of 1918 were held as scheduled even as both the influenza pandemic and World War I raged.</p> <p>Regularly scheduled elections are perhaps the most important feature of our democracy. Like past disasters, COVID-19 is a challenge to be addressed, not an excuse for cancelling democracy.</p> <p>Third, however, it will require action by Congress for the COVID-19 election to succeed. Despite the president’s tweets, vote-by-mail has a proven track record of integrity and effectiveness. Even before COVID-19, roughly 20 percent of ballots cast in recent federal elections were submitted by mail, and in five states elections are conducted virtually entirely by mail. But these states took time to transition from polling-place voting to address some of the problems mail-in voting raises, including verifying signatures, getting ballots out and back on time, and tabulating the results.</p> <p>The unprecedented surge in mail-in voting in place of traditional voting in primaries this spring and summer raised a lot of these problems in states around the country. Dealing with them will require getting and testing new equipment, training election workers, preparing the postal service, and educating voters. All this will require a major administrative effort by state and local election administrators, and it will also require money.</p> <p>Congress is currently struggling over the latest COVID relief bill. The House bill – passed in May – offers states and local governments $3.6 billion in election assistance funds, which are essential for smoothing the transition to mail-in voting as well as for proving election administrators with the money necessary to make polling places safe and sanitary for the many millions of voters who will want to vote in person, whether at early voting election centers or at polling places on Election Day. The latest Senate Republican proposal has NO money for election assistance.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is certainly understandable why Congress should focus its concern on the unemployed, small business, and essential workers. But democracy is also essential, and surely a few billion of the trillion dollars or more than Congress will eventually appropriate must be allocated to protecting democracy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Congress’ failure to appropriate the funds needed to pay for the transition to mail voting and making polling places safe and sanitary would mark a greater threat to the legitimacy of the 2020 election than any of the president’s tweets.</p> <p>***<br />Richard Briffault is the Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School and Vice Chair of Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
An Overdue Answer to Terror Lynchings and the Racial Psychopathy of ‘White Supremacy’ 2020-07-23T04:00:00+00:00 2020-07-23T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9619-answer-to-terror-lynchings-racial-psychopathy-of-white-supremacy-reparations-racism Jim Walden jwalden@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/lynching_protest_2.jpeg" alt="lynching protest 2" width="600" /></p> <p>An anti-lynching protest in front of the White House (Library of Congress)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p><strong><em>Warning: this article contains graphic descriptions of racist violence.</em></strong></p> <p>For more than 300 years, major segments of our nation—oftentimes with the full support and backing of our government, including federal, state, and local governments and law enforcement—have advanced the corrosive and twisted cause of white supremacy. These efforts have taken many forms, far too numerous to document here. But, unmistakably, these efforts have included systemic and institutionalized violence against the Black community to assert white superiority and Black inferiority. No campaign was more evil, nor more cruelly effective, than terror lynchings between 1887 and 1950.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even well-meaning white people reflect on this history of lynchings, slavery, Jim Crow-ism, and segregation with the misguided belief that things are much different now. Yet, legions of Black men and women have been murdered by the police, and even more lives and families have been destroyed by mass incarceration of Black Americans. Recently in Rochester, New York—in the heartland of the allegedly enlightened North—a gang of racists tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass and threw it in a gully. Our Congress cannot even seem to pass an anti-lynching law after more than 100 years of trying. Against this background, we have a president whose administration panders to, and foments, violent and emergent white supremacist groups, including its former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, who infamously told a crowd in 2018, “Let them call you racist…wear it as a badge of honor.”</p> <p>“The way to right wrongs,” as so eloquently put by anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, “is to shine the light of truth upon them.” But, the truth of terror lynchings is very hard to read. In public discourse, there should always be a reason for the graphic tellings of violence, lest we succumb to exploitation and the pornography of atrocity. Here, the purpose of horrific accounts is in service of an important point, which is often missed in our public debate over race and equality in America: white supremacy is a demonstrable form of clinical psychopathy. Three stories animate, with brutal clarity, the psychopathy of white supremacy, and the racial poison it infused into our culture.</p> <p>On August 6, 1930, in Marion, Indiana, three young Black men, Tom Shipp, 19, Abe Smith, 18, and James Cameron, 16, had been arrested for the murder of a white man and the rape of a white woman (who later recanted and denied being raped). A mob gathered at the jailhouse, where the police chief had hung the bloody shirt of the murdered man on the façade of the building, drawing a crowd that swelled to more than 5,000 people. The mob—which included local sheriff’s deputies— broke through the front door of the jail with sledgehammers and pulled the boys out into the street, savagely beating them with clubs, bricks and crowbars. One white man thrust a crowbar through Shipp’s stomach over and over, and then put a noose around his neck and hung him from the bars over the jail’s windows. Other members of the mob beat Smith mercilessly as he fought for his life amid the public spectacle. As the mob hauled him to a maple tree in the courthouse square, Smith tried to remove the rope. Undaunted, members of the mob stabbed him and broke his arms. A frenzied crowd of men, women and children cheered as Smith fought on, trying to free himself until the mob finally killed him. The youngest victim, Cameron, who looked too slight and young to be even 16, was spared the rope when a single onlooker protested his innocence. The crowd took Shipp’s body from the front of the jail and hung him next to Smith’s lifeless cadaver. The event took on a carnival-like atmosphere, with white school kids on lunch break joining the crowd. A photographer chronicled the event and later sold the photographs as souvenirs. Despite efforts from the NAACP and the State’s Attorney General to bring charges against members of the mob—who were readily identifiable in the photographs—no one was ever prosecuted for these brutal, public murders.</p> <p>On May 15, 1916, an angry mob in Waco, Texas lynched a 17-year-old farmhand named Jesse Washington. Like so many other lynching victims, Washington had been accused of raping and murdering a white woman. Illiterate and mentally disabled, Washington was forced to place his mark on a confession he could not read. An all-white jury found him guilty in four minutes.&nbsp; After the conviction, a mob dragged him out of the courthouse by a chain fastened around his neck. On the way to a tree in the public square, the crowd beat and stabbed him as he gripped the chain to relieve the pressure on his neck. At the foot of the tree, the crowd held him down while one member castrated him with a large knife, and then hauled him up on a branch and lit a fire under his feet. As the mob raised and lowered him over the fire, Washington struggled to pull his body up in the chain. The mob lowered him down and cut off his fingers. They burned him alive over the fire for more than an hour as the large crowd, with thousands of spectators, cheered and hollered. The mob lowered his body and cut off parts for souvenirs. A photographer snapped pictures of the gruesome and gory scene, which he later sold as postcards.</p> <p>In mid-May 1918, in Lowndes County, Georgia, gangs of white men lynched more than a dozen Black victims on suspicion of murdering a white sharecropper. One of the victims was Hazel “Hayes” Turner. Arrested based on no evidence whatsoever, a mob appeared at Valdosta jail and demanded that the sheriff surrender him for a lynching. The sheriff refused and, instead, snuck Hayes into a patrol car to transfer him to a jail in a neighboring county. The car never made it.&nbsp; A mob of more than 40 white men stopped the car, seized Hayes, pulled his body into the woods along the roadside and hung him. His then-pregnant wife, Mary Graham Turner, devastated by the murder of her innocent husband, a father of one child, publicly called for the arrest and prosecution of his murderers. The psychopathic mob would not stand for any such call for justice, and, on Sunday, May 19, they seized Mary after she fled her home and beat her mercilessly. A gang of no less than 100 took her to an area adjacent to Folsom’s Bridge. There, they tied her hands and feet and doused her with gasoline and motor oil syphoned from their idling cars. They hoisted her by her ankles on the branch of a tree on the banks of the Little River. The mob set her ablaze. While her hair, skin and clothing burned to a char, one mob member stepped forward with a jagged knife. He cut Mary’s unborn baby from her womb, and then crushed its skull with the heel of his boot. For the next two hours, the crowd used her for target practice, blasting more than 200 bullets into her lifeless body. The mob cut what was left of her broken, charred, bullet-ridden remains down and buried her in a shallow grave. They used an empty whiskey bottle to mark the grave where she laid with her baby. Without reporting the graphic details of the murders, including the murder of Mary’s baby, the <em>Atlanta Constitution</em> reported that the mob reacted to Mary’s “unwise remarks...the people were angered by her remarks, as well as her attitude.”</p> <p>These are three among thousands of similar stories. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, more than 4,000 Black people—mostly men—were lynched in this period. While most of the lynching occurred in the South, hundreds occurred in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Some editorials denounced the savagery, as the Georgia Exhibition did after a mob burned Sam Holt alive on a stake in 1899, saying, “The best that the devilish ingenuity of man has ever been able to do, in any age or among any people, to make the ordeal of death as excruciating and awful as it could possibly be made, was equaled in [Holt’s] torture and mutilation.” More often, the coverage was supportive of the savagery, and even extolled the perpetrators, as the <em>Springfield Weekly Republican</em> did in 1896, when, after an attempted lynching, the editor wrote: “The noble and valiant Anglo-Saxons of Manatee county, Fla., are engaged now in demonstrating the superiority of the race.”</p> <p>With its inherent attributes—extreme anger, brutal violence and torture, extreme lack of empathy, and delusions of superiority—it is hardly difficult to see white supremacy as a psychotic disorder.&nbsp; But the wide-spread acceptance of lynching among racist whites also shows the deep traditions of corruption now sew into the fabric of our criminal justice system.&nbsp; These brutal accounts of murder, torture, kidnapping beating, stabbing, lynching, burning, dismemberment, and the photographing of mutilated bodies for souvenirs—often with the help of complicit jailers or police, and often with perpetrators being celebrated not prosecuted—tell the story of a criminal justice system that shielded psychopathic murderers before the law as official policy.</p> <p>These horrors—which “were enough to make the devil gasp in astonishment,” as aptly stated by James Weldon Johnson—are evidence of the dark recesses of American institutional and systematic violence against Black people, for the deranged and psychotic purpose of establishing the superiority of the white murdering class.&nbsp; But, to be sure, the smoldering psychosis of “white supremacy” continues to infect our nation and inflict grievous harm on black Americans.&nbsp; While I penned this essay, on July 16, 2020, a group of white men assaulted and threatened to lynch a black man named Vauhxx Booker in Lake Monroe, Indiana.&nbsp; The assault, partially recorded on a smart phone, makes the blood boil and lays bare the impact of this racial poison on modern day America.</p> <p>What should we do now to identify and prohibit future lynchings, to atone as a society for these grievous wrongs, and the lasting damage the poison of racial hatred, which continues to seep through the veins of our nation? We must have the will and the integrity to face the truth and try to make amends.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>We must, as Ida Wells taught, shine the light of truth.</p> <p>First, Congress should establish a “Truth and Reconciliation” commission to identify every victim of terror lynchings and every person who participated in these horrific acts of torture and murder, whether actively or as a bystander. We should know and remember the names of the victims and the names of their tormentors. We must listen to the stories of their families. A national monument should be built to preserve these stories in our national memory so that we may bear witness to the hate and brutality they suffered, and to learn from our ignoble history.</p> <p>Second, it is imperative that we teach the truth about black history in America, including the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow-ism, segregation, and terror lynchings, to every child. The fact that we generally lack academically-robust and standardized Black history curricula in public schools only allows ignorance and bigotry to continue to thrive and flourish. If we teach children the truth, we can counteract the irrational hatred and fear that fuels white supremacy in our culture.</p> <p>Third, Congress must pass the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which enjoys broad bi-partisan support but continues to be stalled by the pathetic objections of a single Republican senator. Efforts to block the bill are part of a long lineage of institutionalized racism in our legislature, embodied in racist senators, who have blocked nearly 200 attempts in the last 50 years to introduce the law. This obstructionism precipitated a Senate apology to the victims of terror lynchings in 2005. “The Senate failed you and your ancestors and our nation,” said Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana at an event with 200 descendants of lynching victims. Today’s Senate should pass this long-overdue bill. Congress should not fail the victims again.</p> <p>These small acts should be easy. Rational, non- and anti-racist citizens could not object to teaching and facing our history, and to punishing lynchings in the year 2020. Other steps might be harder to achieve, but are just as important.</p> <p>Congress should allocate monies to establish a reparations fund for the surviving family members of the victims of terror lynchings. Much of the work to identify these families has already been completed by <a href="https://eji.org/">the Equal Justice Initiative</a> and the NAACP.&nbsp; If we can bail out big banks and provide generous tax loopholes for corporations, this country can compensate the families of victims, ripped apart and feeling the enduring consequences of—what Phillip Dray in his seminal work, “<em>At The Hands of Persons Unknown</em>,” called—the Black holocaust. This would be a first step in the larger push towards just reparations for slavery.</p> <p>Finally, we must recognize that racism against Black Americans continues in many forms—many blatant, and many more subtle—today. This is not as easy as it should be. Our nation as a whole must own the lasting impact of slavery and lynchings on African-American citizens and the legacy of that history in the form of systemic bias that pervades our institutions and daily life. Systemic bias is not easy to face or account for, but white Americans of conscience must do their part to raise up Black voices, and make whatever sacrifices as are required to allow Black Americans to achieve the American dream so long denied.</p> <p>On May 15, 2010, nearly 100 years after the murders of Mary and Hayes Turner and their baby, a historical marker bearing witness to the Georgia Lynching Rampage of 1918, including the Turners’ lynchings, was placed alongside Fulsom’s Bridge. In 2013, an unknown racist shot through the marker five times, and those bullet holes remain to this day. The tragic psychopathy of white supremacy is alive and well in America. Our nation will continue to live in prolonged shame if we lack the will and vision to cure ourselves of this sickness.</p> <p>***<br />Jim Walden is a former federal prosecutor and has brought extensive good-government litigation to vindicate the rights of citizens in the face of government misconduct. He is a member of the Board of Citizens Union.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/lynching_protest_2.jpeg" alt="lynching protest 2" width="600" /></p> <p>An anti-lynching protest in front of the White House (Library of Congress)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p><strong><em>Warning: this article contains graphic descriptions of racist violence.</em></strong></p> <p>For more than 300 years, major segments of our nation—oftentimes with the full support and backing of our government, including federal, state, and local governments and law enforcement—have advanced the corrosive and twisted cause of white supremacy. These efforts have taken many forms, far too numerous to document here. But, unmistakably, these efforts have included systemic and institutionalized violence against the Black community to assert white superiority and Black inferiority. No campaign was more evil, nor more cruelly effective, than terror lynchings between 1887 and 1950.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even well-meaning white people reflect on this history of lynchings, slavery, Jim Crow-ism, and segregation with the misguided belief that things are much different now. Yet, legions of Black men and women have been murdered by the police, and even more lives and families have been destroyed by mass incarceration of Black Americans. Recently in Rochester, New York—in the heartland of the allegedly enlightened North—a gang of racists tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass and threw it in a gully. Our Congress cannot even seem to pass an anti-lynching law after more than 100 years of trying. Against this background, we have a president whose administration panders to, and foments, violent and emergent white supremacist groups, including its former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, who infamously told a crowd in 2018, “Let them call you racist…wear it as a badge of honor.”</p> <p>“The way to right wrongs,” as so eloquently put by anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, “is to shine the light of truth upon them.” But, the truth of terror lynchings is very hard to read. In public discourse, there should always be a reason for the graphic tellings of violence, lest we succumb to exploitation and the pornography of atrocity. Here, the purpose of horrific accounts is in service of an important point, which is often missed in our public debate over race and equality in America: white supremacy is a demonstrable form of clinical psychopathy. Three stories animate, with brutal clarity, the psychopathy of white supremacy, and the racial poison it infused into our culture.</p> <p>On August 6, 1930, in Marion, Indiana, three young Black men, Tom Shipp, 19, Abe Smith, 18, and James Cameron, 16, had been arrested for the murder of a white man and the rape of a white woman (who later recanted and denied being raped). A mob gathered at the jailhouse, where the police chief had hung the bloody shirt of the murdered man on the façade of the building, drawing a crowd that swelled to more than 5,000 people. The mob—which included local sheriff’s deputies— broke through the front door of the jail with sledgehammers and pulled the boys out into the street, savagely beating them with clubs, bricks and crowbars. One white man thrust a crowbar through Shipp’s stomach over and over, and then put a noose around his neck and hung him from the bars over the jail’s windows. Other members of the mob beat Smith mercilessly as he fought for his life amid the public spectacle. As the mob hauled him to a maple tree in the courthouse square, Smith tried to remove the rope. Undaunted, members of the mob stabbed him and broke his arms. A frenzied crowd of men, women and children cheered as Smith fought on, trying to free himself until the mob finally killed him. The youngest victim, Cameron, who looked too slight and young to be even 16, was spared the rope when a single onlooker protested his innocence. The crowd took Shipp’s body from the front of the jail and hung him next to Smith’s lifeless cadaver. The event took on a carnival-like atmosphere, with white school kids on lunch break joining the crowd. A photographer chronicled the event and later sold the photographs as souvenirs. Despite efforts from the NAACP and the State’s Attorney General to bring charges against members of the mob—who were readily identifiable in the photographs—no one was ever prosecuted for these brutal, public murders.</p> <p>On May 15, 1916, an angry mob in Waco, Texas lynched a 17-year-old farmhand named Jesse Washington. Like so many other lynching victims, Washington had been accused of raping and murdering a white woman. Illiterate and mentally disabled, Washington was forced to place his mark on a confession he could not read. An all-white jury found him guilty in four minutes.&nbsp; After the conviction, a mob dragged him out of the courthouse by a chain fastened around his neck. On the way to a tree in the public square, the crowd beat and stabbed him as he gripped the chain to relieve the pressure on his neck. At the foot of the tree, the crowd held him down while one member castrated him with a large knife, and then hauled him up on a branch and lit a fire under his feet. As the mob raised and lowered him over the fire, Washington struggled to pull his body up in the chain. The mob lowered him down and cut off his fingers. They burned him alive over the fire for more than an hour as the large crowd, with thousands of spectators, cheered and hollered. The mob lowered his body and cut off parts for souvenirs. A photographer snapped pictures of the gruesome and gory scene, which he later sold as postcards.</p> <p>In mid-May 1918, in Lowndes County, Georgia, gangs of white men lynched more than a dozen Black victims on suspicion of murdering a white sharecropper. One of the victims was Hazel “Hayes” Turner. Arrested based on no evidence whatsoever, a mob appeared at Valdosta jail and demanded that the sheriff surrender him for a lynching. The sheriff refused and, instead, snuck Hayes into a patrol car to transfer him to a jail in a neighboring county. The car never made it.&nbsp; A mob of more than 40 white men stopped the car, seized Hayes, pulled his body into the woods along the roadside and hung him. His then-pregnant wife, Mary Graham Turner, devastated by the murder of her innocent husband, a father of one child, publicly called for the arrest and prosecution of his murderers. The psychopathic mob would not stand for any such call for justice, and, on Sunday, May 19, they seized Mary after she fled her home and beat her mercilessly. A gang of no less than 100 took her to an area adjacent to Folsom’s Bridge. There, they tied her hands and feet and doused her with gasoline and motor oil syphoned from their idling cars. They hoisted her by her ankles on the branch of a tree on the banks of the Little River. The mob set her ablaze. While her hair, skin and clothing burned to a char, one mob member stepped forward with a jagged knife. He cut Mary’s unborn baby from her womb, and then crushed its skull with the heel of his boot. For the next two hours, the crowd used her for target practice, blasting more than 200 bullets into her lifeless body. The mob cut what was left of her broken, charred, bullet-ridden remains down and buried her in a shallow grave. They used an empty whiskey bottle to mark the grave where she laid with her baby. Without reporting the graphic details of the murders, including the murder of Mary’s baby, the <em>Atlanta Constitution</em> reported that the mob reacted to Mary’s “unwise remarks...the people were angered by her remarks, as well as her attitude.”</p> <p>These are three among thousands of similar stories. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, more than 4,000 Black people—mostly men—were lynched in this period. While most of the lynching occurred in the South, hundreds occurred in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Some editorials denounced the savagery, as the Georgia Exhibition did after a mob burned Sam Holt alive on a stake in 1899, saying, “The best that the devilish ingenuity of man has ever been able to do, in any age or among any people, to make the ordeal of death as excruciating and awful as it could possibly be made, was equaled in [Holt’s] torture and mutilation.” More often, the coverage was supportive of the savagery, and even extolled the perpetrators, as the <em>Springfield Weekly Republican</em> did in 1896, when, after an attempted lynching, the editor wrote: “The noble and valiant Anglo-Saxons of Manatee county, Fla., are engaged now in demonstrating the superiority of the race.”</p> <p>With its inherent attributes—extreme anger, brutal violence and torture, extreme lack of empathy, and delusions of superiority—it is hardly difficult to see white supremacy as a psychotic disorder.&nbsp; But the wide-spread acceptance of lynching among racist whites also shows the deep traditions of corruption now sew into the fabric of our criminal justice system.&nbsp; These brutal accounts of murder, torture, kidnapping beating, stabbing, lynching, burning, dismemberment, and the photographing of mutilated bodies for souvenirs—often with the help of complicit jailers or police, and often with perpetrators being celebrated not prosecuted—tell the story of a criminal justice system that shielded psychopathic murderers before the law as official policy.</p> <p>These horrors—which “were enough to make the devil gasp in astonishment,” as aptly stated by James Weldon Johnson—are evidence of the dark recesses of American institutional and systematic violence against Black people, for the deranged and psychotic purpose of establishing the superiority of the white murdering class.&nbsp; But, to be sure, the smoldering psychosis of “white supremacy” continues to infect our nation and inflict grievous harm on black Americans.&nbsp; While I penned this essay, on July 16, 2020, a group of white men assaulted and threatened to lynch a black man named Vauhxx Booker in Lake Monroe, Indiana.&nbsp; The assault, partially recorded on a smart phone, makes the blood boil and lays bare the impact of this racial poison on modern day America.</p> <p>What should we do now to identify and prohibit future lynchings, to atone as a society for these grievous wrongs, and the lasting damage the poison of racial hatred, which continues to seep through the veins of our nation? We must have the will and the integrity to face the truth and try to make amends.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>We must, as Ida Wells taught, shine the light of truth.</p> <p>First, Congress should establish a “Truth and Reconciliation” commission to identify every victim of terror lynchings and every person who participated in these horrific acts of torture and murder, whether actively or as a bystander. We should know and remember the names of the victims and the names of their tormentors. We must listen to the stories of their families. A national monument should be built to preserve these stories in our national memory so that we may bear witness to the hate and brutality they suffered, and to learn from our ignoble history.</p> <p>Second, it is imperative that we teach the truth about black history in America, including the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow-ism, segregation, and terror lynchings, to every child. The fact that we generally lack academically-robust and standardized Black history curricula in public schools only allows ignorance and bigotry to continue to thrive and flourish. If we teach children the truth, we can counteract the irrational hatred and fear that fuels white supremacy in our culture.</p> <p>Third, Congress must pass the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which enjoys broad bi-partisan support but continues to be stalled by the pathetic objections of a single Republican senator. Efforts to block the bill are part of a long lineage of institutionalized racism in our legislature, embodied in racist senators, who have blocked nearly 200 attempts in the last 50 years to introduce the law. This obstructionism precipitated a Senate apology to the victims of terror lynchings in 2005. “The Senate failed you and your ancestors and our nation,” said Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana at an event with 200 descendants of lynching victims. Today’s Senate should pass this long-overdue bill. Congress should not fail the victims again.</p> <p>These small acts should be easy. Rational, non- and anti-racist citizens could not object to teaching and facing our history, and to punishing lynchings in the year 2020. Other steps might be harder to achieve, but are just as important.</p> <p>Congress should allocate monies to establish a reparations fund for the surviving family members of the victims of terror lynchings. Much of the work to identify these families has already been completed by <a href="https://eji.org/">the Equal Justice Initiative</a> and the NAACP.&nbsp; If we can bail out big banks and provide generous tax loopholes for corporations, this country can compensate the families of victims, ripped apart and feeling the enduring consequences of—what Phillip Dray in his seminal work, “<em>At The Hands of Persons Unknown</em>,” called—the Black holocaust. This would be a first step in the larger push towards just reparations for slavery.</p> <p>Finally, we must recognize that racism against Black Americans continues in many forms—many blatant, and many more subtle—today. This is not as easy as it should be. Our nation as a whole must own the lasting impact of slavery and lynchings on African-American citizens and the legacy of that history in the form of systemic bias that pervades our institutions and daily life. Systemic bias is not easy to face or account for, but white Americans of conscience must do their part to raise up Black voices, and make whatever sacrifices as are required to allow Black Americans to achieve the American dream so long denied.</p> <p>On May 15, 2010, nearly 100 years after the murders of Mary and Hayes Turner and their baby, a historical marker bearing witness to the Georgia Lynching Rampage of 1918, including the Turners’ lynchings, was placed alongside Fulsom’s Bridge. In 2013, an unknown racist shot through the marker five times, and those bullet holes remain to this day. The tragic psychopathy of white supremacy is alive and well in America. Our nation will continue to live in prolonged shame if we lack the will and vision to cure ourselves of this sickness.</p> <p>***<br />Jim Walden is a former federal prosecutor and has brought extensive good-government litigation to vindicate the rights of citizens in the face of government misconduct. He is a member of the Board of Citizens Union.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Compelled to Act: An Unprecedented Leap Into Presidential Politics 2020-07-02T04:00:00+00:00 2020-07-02T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9556-citizens-union-unprecedented-leap-into-presidential-politics-2020 Randy Mastro rmastro@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/trump-biden.jpg" alt="trump biden" width="600" height="300" /></p> <p>Joe Biden and Donald Trump</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>For more than 120 years, Citizens Union has been a non-partisan force for transparency, accountability, honesty, and ethics in New York City and State government.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Founded by private citizens who cared about good government and wanted to call out the corrupt political bosses of the Tammany Hall era, Citizens Union has since made an essential part of its mission to express preferences for state and local candidates who share its values. It's a kind of non-partisan Good Housekeeping "seal of approval" highly coveted by those seeking elected office in New York.</p> <p>But never before have we expressed a preference in a U.S. Presidential race. That is, until now.&nbsp;</p> <p>For the first time in our century-and-a-quarter history, Citizens Union's board has decided that the stakes in this year's Presidential race are too high -- for New Yorkers and all Americans -- to sit on the sidelines.&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether to do so was the subject of intense board debate. After all, we were considering whether to do something unprecedented for our organization -- weigh in on a federal race -- when our focus has always been on local and state government. At the end of a lengthy debate, however, our board voted overwhelmingly, with many of us considering this to be the most consequential Presidential race of our lifetimes. But we also committed to follow our customary practice, reaching out to campaigns with questions, affording them the opportunity to be heard by screening committees, and ultimately having the Board vote on a preference, which will come later, before the November election.</p> <p>How did we get here? I have had the honor of chairing Citizens Union's board for the past four years. And with each year during the Trump Administration, we have found ourselves increasingly having to speak out on federal issues affecting New York -- also a rare, if not unprecedented occurrence for our organization.&nbsp;</p> <p>First, in August 2017, we felt compelled to denounce President Trump's characterization of white supremacists and neo-Nazis inciting violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as "very good people." In the face of their threats to come to New York City, we said "there is no place for them here in New York," and we called the President's comments "repugnant," "reprehensible" and "wrong."</p> <p>Next, in June 2018, we called out our federal government's "dysfunctional immigration policy" affecting so many in New York City. And we condemned "the appalling lack of leadership" in countenancing "helpless infants" being "stripped from their mothers' arms at the border and then held, traumatized, in make-shift internment camps."</p> <p>Then, in October 2019, we spoke out again about the President's attempts to discredit and "out" the whistleblower who first reported the Ukrainian incident that resulted in Trump's impeachment. We noted our organization's long-standing support of whistleblower protections, said of impeachment that "such an inquiry is not -- as President Trump claims -- a 'hoax' or a 'coup,'" and urged Trump to stop seeking to "erode public confidence in our democratic institutions."</p> <p>And most recently, last month, we once again felt compelled to speak out -- this time about the President's mishandling of two crises (coronavirus and racial justice) that have rocked New York and the nation. We concluded: "The true measure of a leader is one who inspires us to be the best version of ourselves and treat each other with equality, dignity and respect. Now is a time when we crave such leadership."</p> <p>Now, our nation is at a crossroads. And the issues that Citizens Union cares most about -- transparency, accountability, honesty, and ethics in government -- will be front and center in this year's Presidential race. And Citizens Union will be there, speaking out, expressing its preference, and holding the candidates accountable to show they can lead us through these troubling times.</p> <p>***<br />Randy Mastro is the Chair of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, a former New York City Deputy Mayor, and a current partner at Gibson Dunn &amp; Crutcher LLP.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/trump-biden.jpg" alt="trump biden" width="600" height="300" /></p> <p>Joe Biden and Donald Trump</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>For more than 120 years, Citizens Union has been a non-partisan force for transparency, accountability, honesty, and ethics in New York City and State government.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Founded by private citizens who cared about good government and wanted to call out the corrupt political bosses of the Tammany Hall era, Citizens Union has since made an essential part of its mission to express preferences for state and local candidates who share its values. It's a kind of non-partisan Good Housekeeping "seal of approval" highly coveted by those seeking elected office in New York.</p> <p>But never before have we expressed a preference in a U.S. Presidential race. That is, until now.&nbsp;</p> <p>For the first time in our century-and-a-quarter history, Citizens Union's board has decided that the stakes in this year's Presidential race are too high -- for New Yorkers and all Americans -- to sit on the sidelines.&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether to do so was the subject of intense board debate. After all, we were considering whether to do something unprecedented for our organization -- weigh in on a federal race -- when our focus has always been on local and state government. At the end of a lengthy debate, however, our board voted overwhelmingly, with many of us considering this to be the most consequential Presidential race of our lifetimes. But we also committed to follow our customary practice, reaching out to campaigns with questions, affording them the opportunity to be heard by screening committees, and ultimately having the Board vote on a preference, which will come later, before the November election.</p> <p>How did we get here? I have had the honor of chairing Citizens Union's board for the past four years. And with each year during the Trump Administration, we have found ourselves increasingly having to speak out on federal issues affecting New York -- also a rare, if not unprecedented occurrence for our organization.&nbsp;</p> <p>First, in August 2017, we felt compelled to denounce President Trump's characterization of white supremacists and neo-Nazis inciting violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as "very good people." In the face of their threats to come to New York City, we said "there is no place for them here in New York," and we called the President's comments "repugnant," "reprehensible" and "wrong."</p> <p>Next, in June 2018, we called out our federal government's "dysfunctional immigration policy" affecting so many in New York City. And we condemned "the appalling lack of leadership" in countenancing "helpless infants" being "stripped from their mothers' arms at the border and then held, traumatized, in make-shift internment camps."</p> <p>Then, in October 2019, we spoke out again about the President's attempts to discredit and "out" the whistleblower who first reported the Ukrainian incident that resulted in Trump's impeachment. We noted our organization's long-standing support of whistleblower protections, said of impeachment that "such an inquiry is not -- as President Trump claims -- a 'hoax' or a 'coup,'" and urged Trump to stop seeking to "erode public confidence in our democratic institutions."</p> <p>And most recently, last month, we once again felt compelled to speak out -- this time about the President's mishandling of two crises (coronavirus and racial justice) that have rocked New York and the nation. We concluded: "The true measure of a leader is one who inspires us to be the best version of ourselves and treat each other with equality, dignity and respect. Now is a time when we crave such leadership."</p> <p>Now, our nation is at a crossroads. And the issues that Citizens Union cares most about -- transparency, accountability, honesty, and ethics in government -- will be front and center in this year's Presidential race. And Citizens Union will be there, speaking out, expressing its preference, and holding the candidates accountable to show they can lead us through these troubling times.</p> <p>***<br />Randy Mastro is the Chair of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, a former New York City Deputy Mayor, and a current partner at Gibson Dunn &amp; Crutcher LLP.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
The Time Has Come to Repeal Section 50-A of New York’s Civil Rights Law 2020-06-05T04:00:00+00:00 2020-06-05T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9466-repeal-section-50-a-new-york-civil-rights-law Frederick Schaffer fschaffer@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/pd-grad-cer.jpg" alt="pd grad cer" width="600" /></p> <p>Police officers take the oath (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>In light of the police killing of&nbsp; George Floyd, Governor Cuomo has announced that he would support “reform” of Section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law, which prevents disclosure of any documents relating to the disciplinary records of police officers. The Governor has not indicated what “reform” he prefers, but he subsequently said, referring to the Legislature, that whether “repeal, reform, whatever they send me I will sign.” The Legislature should repeal the law in its entirety as an important step toward greater police accountability.</p> <p>Section 50-a, which was enacted in 1976, provides that “[a]ll personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” of a police officer “shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer...except as may be mandated by lawful court order.”</p> <p>The statute goes on to provide that prior to issuing such court order, a judge must review all such requests and give interested parties the opportunity to be heard and then review the requested records under seal in order to determine whether they are relevant and material to the action before him or her. The provision for a court order applies only to a pending litigation in which a party seeks a subpoena for documents covered by Section 50-a, not to a request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).</p> <p>Indeed, New York’s highest court has ruled that Section 50-a prohibits any disclosure of disciplinary records under FOIL (see New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Police Department, 32 N.Y.3d 556 (2018); and Daily Gazette v. Schenectady, 93 N.Y.2d 145, 154-55 (1999)). Section 50-a would also appear to prohibit voluntary disclosure of such records by police departments, at least where they identify particular officers.</p> <p>The effect of Section 50-a is to significantly deprive the public of information necessary to ensure the accountability of police officers for misconduct and of the Police Department for ensuring such accountability through its systems of civilian complaints and disciplinary proceedings. Without information as to the outcome of such proceedings, it is impossible to know if those systems are functioning properly.</p> <p>The extent to which the confidentiality of police disciplinary records may have kept the public in the dark about significant wrongdoing and the absence of an adequate response is presented dramatically in the results of an examination of 319 files from 2011 to 2015 published by BuzzFeed News in 2018, “<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/kendalltaggart/secret-nypd-files-hundreds-of-officers-committed-serious?utm_term=.qpjdPGnPnE#.upjABvEBEO" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Secret NYPD Files: Officers Can Lie And Brutally Beat People – And Still Keep Their Jobs</a>.” For a more dispassionate, statistical analysis and critique, see the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ccpc/downloads/pdf/Annual-Nineteen-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Nineteenth Annual Report of the New York City Commission to Combat Police Corruption</a>, published in December 2019 (pp. 37-116).&nbsp;</p> <p>At the urging of Citizens Union, where I sat on the Board of Directors, the NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012 in which the Police Department authorized the CCRB to undertake all administrative prosecutions of civilian complaints against police officers that have been substantiated by the CCRB and in which the CCRB has recommended that charges and specifications be preferred.</p> <p>The MOU further provides that in any case substantiated by the CCRB in which the Police Commissioner intends to impose discipline that is of a lower level than that recommended by the CCRB or by an NYPD Trial Commissioner, the Police Commissioner shall send the CCRB a detailed, written explanation of the reasons for deviating from that recommendation, including each factor the Police Commissioner considered in making the decision. In light of the position of the Police Department that all disciplinary records are confidential under Section 50-a, we and all other watchdogs and interested parties are unable to monitor compliance with this provision.</p> <p>It has been argued that Section 50-a is justified by the need to protect police officers against harassment or retaliation resulting from disclosure of disciplinary records. However, notwithstanding the law, until 2016 (40 years after its enactment), the New York City Police Department made public the records of disciplinary proceedings against police officers resulting in a substantiation of the complaint. There appears to be no evidence that that practice resulted in any harm to police officers.&nbsp;</p> <p>It has also been argued in support of “reform” of Section 50-a, as opposed to repeal, that it is unfair to police officers for there to be public disclosure of records pertaining to unsubstantiated complaints or charges against them. However, police officers, like other public officials and employees, already enjoy significant (if not absolute) protection against such disclosure. FOIL exempts from its requirements records the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (see Public Officers Law §§ 87(2)(b) and 89(2)(b)).</p> <p>The Committee on Open Government has issued two advisory opinions stating that the personal privacy exemption is applicable when allegations or charges of misconduct have not yet been determined or did not result in disciplinary action (see FOIL AO-10399 (Oct. 31, 1997) (police officers)) or when allegations of misconduct were not substantiated (see FOIL AO-12005 (Mar. 21, 2000) (prison inmates)).</p> <p>Although the Advisory Opinions of the Committee on Open Government “are not binding authority, they may be considered on the strength of their reasoning and analysis” (see Matter of TJS of N.Y., Inc. v. New York State Dep’t of Taxation &amp; Fin., 89 A.D.3d 239, 242 n.1 (3d Dep’t 2011)). The reasoning of the advisory opinions cited above appears correct at least with respect to documents that reveal the identity of the individuals against whom the unsubstantiated complaints were made.&nbsp;</p> <p>That is not to say that FOIL would never require disclosure of documents relating to unsubstantiated reports of misconduct or that such disclosure would always be inappropriate.&nbsp; For one thing, statistical tabulations and other data that do not reveal the identity of the police officer are necessary for accountability and should be permitted. In addition, in a high-profile case in which the nature of the complaint and the name of the police officer are already a matter of public knowledge, and where there is controversy surrounding the adequacy of the investigation, the appropriate balance between the public interest in the matter and the privacy interest of the police officer should tip in favor of disclosure. It is precisely that kind of careful weighing of factors by a court that FOIL mandates, and Section 50-a precludes.&nbsp;</p> <p>In sum, police officers should enjoy the same level of protection as provided to all government officials under the exemptions to FOIL. Indeed, New York is one of only two states that grant police officers special privacy protections beyond what other public employees have. Accordingly, the Legislature should repeal Section 50-a in its entirety.</p> <p>***<br />Frederick P. Schaffer is a Director of Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/pd-grad-cer.jpg" alt="pd grad cer" width="600" /></p> <p>Police officers take the oath (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>In light of the police killing of&nbsp; George Floyd, Governor Cuomo has announced that he would support “reform” of Section 50-a of the Civil Rights Law, which prevents disclosure of any documents relating to the disciplinary records of police officers. The Governor has not indicated what “reform” he prefers, but he subsequently said, referring to the Legislature, that whether “repeal, reform, whatever they send me I will sign.” The Legislature should repeal the law in its entirety as an important step toward greater police accountability.</p> <p>Section 50-a, which was enacted in 1976, provides that “[a]ll personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” of a police officer “shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer...except as may be mandated by lawful court order.”</p> <p>The statute goes on to provide that prior to issuing such court order, a judge must review all such requests and give interested parties the opportunity to be heard and then review the requested records under seal in order to determine whether they are relevant and material to the action before him or her. The provision for a court order applies only to a pending litigation in which a party seeks a subpoena for documents covered by Section 50-a, not to a request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).</p> <p>Indeed, New York’s highest court has ruled that Section 50-a prohibits any disclosure of disciplinary records under FOIL (see New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Police Department, 32 N.Y.3d 556 (2018); and Daily Gazette v. Schenectady, 93 N.Y.2d 145, 154-55 (1999)). Section 50-a would also appear to prohibit voluntary disclosure of such records by police departments, at least where they identify particular officers.</p> <p>The effect of Section 50-a is to significantly deprive the public of information necessary to ensure the accountability of police officers for misconduct and of the Police Department for ensuring such accountability through its systems of civilian complaints and disciplinary proceedings. Without information as to the outcome of such proceedings, it is impossible to know if those systems are functioning properly.</p> <p>The extent to which the confidentiality of police disciplinary records may have kept the public in the dark about significant wrongdoing and the absence of an adequate response is presented dramatically in the results of an examination of 319 files from 2011 to 2015 published by BuzzFeed News in 2018, “<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/kendalltaggart/secret-nypd-files-hundreds-of-officers-committed-serious?utm_term=.qpjdPGnPnE#.upjABvEBEO" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Secret NYPD Files: Officers Can Lie And Brutally Beat People – And Still Keep Their Jobs</a>.” For a more dispassionate, statistical analysis and critique, see the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ccpc/downloads/pdf/Annual-Nineteen-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Nineteenth Annual Report of the New York City Commission to Combat Police Corruption</a>, published in December 2019 (pp. 37-116).&nbsp;</p> <p>At the urging of Citizens Union, where I sat on the Board of Directors, the NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012 in which the Police Department authorized the CCRB to undertake all administrative prosecutions of civilian complaints against police officers that have been substantiated by the CCRB and in which the CCRB has recommended that charges and specifications be preferred.</p> <p>The MOU further provides that in any case substantiated by the CCRB in which the Police Commissioner intends to impose discipline that is of a lower level than that recommended by the CCRB or by an NYPD Trial Commissioner, the Police Commissioner shall send the CCRB a detailed, written explanation of the reasons for deviating from that recommendation, including each factor the Police Commissioner considered in making the decision. In light of the position of the Police Department that all disciplinary records are confidential under Section 50-a, we and all other watchdogs and interested parties are unable to monitor compliance with this provision.</p> <p>It has been argued that Section 50-a is justified by the need to protect police officers against harassment or retaliation resulting from disclosure of disciplinary records. However, notwithstanding the law, until 2016 (40 years after its enactment), the New York City Police Department made public the records of disciplinary proceedings against police officers resulting in a substantiation of the complaint. There appears to be no evidence that that practice resulted in any harm to police officers.&nbsp;</p> <p>It has also been argued in support of “reform” of Section 50-a, as opposed to repeal, that it is unfair to police officers for there to be public disclosure of records pertaining to unsubstantiated complaints or charges against them. However, police officers, like other public officials and employees, already enjoy significant (if not absolute) protection against such disclosure. FOIL exempts from its requirements records the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (see Public Officers Law §§ 87(2)(b) and 89(2)(b)).</p> <p>The Committee on Open Government has issued two advisory opinions stating that the personal privacy exemption is applicable when allegations or charges of misconduct have not yet been determined or did not result in disciplinary action (see FOIL AO-10399 (Oct. 31, 1997) (police officers)) or when allegations of misconduct were not substantiated (see FOIL AO-12005 (Mar. 21, 2000) (prison inmates)).</p> <p>Although the Advisory Opinions of the Committee on Open Government “are not binding authority, they may be considered on the strength of their reasoning and analysis” (see Matter of TJS of N.Y., Inc. v. New York State Dep’t of Taxation &amp; Fin., 89 A.D.3d 239, 242 n.1 (3d Dep’t 2011)). The reasoning of the advisory opinions cited above appears correct at least with respect to documents that reveal the identity of the individuals against whom the unsubstantiated complaints were made.&nbsp;</p> <p>That is not to say that FOIL would never require disclosure of documents relating to unsubstantiated reports of misconduct or that such disclosure would always be inappropriate.&nbsp; For one thing, statistical tabulations and other data that do not reveal the identity of the police officer are necessary for accountability and should be permitted. In addition, in a high-profile case in which the nature of the complaint and the name of the police officer are already a matter of public knowledge, and where there is controversy surrounding the adequacy of the investigation, the appropriate balance between the public interest in the matter and the privacy interest of the police officer should tip in favor of disclosure. It is precisely that kind of careful weighing of factors by a court that FOIL mandates, and Section 50-a precludes.&nbsp;</p> <p>In sum, police officers should enjoy the same level of protection as provided to all government officials under the exemptions to FOIL. Indeed, New York is one of only two states that grant police officers special privacy protections beyond what other public employees have. Accordingly, the Legislature should repeal Section 50-a in its entirety.</p> <p>***<br />Frederick P. Schaffer is a Director of Citizens Union Foundation.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Voting in a Pandemic: How New York, and New Yorkers, Must Lead the Way 2020-05-27T04:00:00+00:00 2020-05-27T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9414-voting-in-coronavirus-pandemic-how-new-york-and-new-yorkers-must-lead-the-way Betsy Gotbaum golabek@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/mt-kitso-pre.jpg" alt="mt kitso pre" width="600" /></p> <p>New York has made some adjustments to voting amid COVID-19 (photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, including how we will vote this year. In times of crisis in a democracy, it is essential that we proceed with elections. At the same time, we can’t ask New Yorkers to put their health in jeopardy. Ensuring our elections run smoothly will require planning, resources, and flexibility.</p> <p>With a large slate of primary elections fast-approaching in June and the general election in the fall not far off, New Yorkers must know about recent changes and be prepared to vote safely. This will require additional reforms in the weeks and months ahead.</p> <p>On April 24, Governor Cuomo issued an order compelling Boards of Elections to mail an absentee ballot application to all eligible voters. This caused a lot of New Yorkers to scratch their heads. Wouldn’t it be easier (and cheaper) just to mail a ballot, rather than an application? Yes, but, the New York State constitution prohibits that from happening.&nbsp;</p> <p>We encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of expanded absentee voting for the June election. A coalition of civic groups and government offices <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/9406-what-new-york-city-voters-need-to-know-june-primary-elections" target="_blank">is boosting these efforts with a public education campaign</a> to raise awareness and explain the process so as many New Yorkers as possible vote by absentee ballot.&nbsp;</p> <p>But we also need New Yorkers who know -- like everyone reading this column -- to become absentee ballot ambassadors by simply spreading the word among their networks. It takes two minutes to post to Facebook, send a tweet, or even email a small list of people to make sure they know their options.</p> <p>In some areas, including New York City, you can apply for your absentee ballot online (<a href="https://www.nycabsentee.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">click here to fill out your form</a>). Voting absentee will not only minimize risk to public health, but also reduce stress on the Board of Elections, which will likely be operating with fewer poll workers.</p> <p>Since declaring a state of emergency, Governor Cuomo has issued 12 executive orders related to elections. Right now, the governor’s executive orders explicitly apply only to the June elections. However it is not too early to start thinking about the general election in the fall. To carefully manage public health risk, we need to allow everyone who wants to vote by mail this fall to do so.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>We also need to think about how to engage a new generation of voters. Presidential election years are typically when we see the highest spikes in voter registration, particularly among young people who are voting for the first time. Because of COVID-19, voter registration rates have dropped off precipitously.</p> <p>One barrier is that currently only residents with a New York State ID can register to vote online. This excludes 700,000 New York City residents, including many younger potential voters. The only other option currently available to the unregistered is printing out a form and mailing it in, which excludes the many New Yorkers without printers.</p> <p>We need to make it easier for new voters to register and vote. Luckily a solution already exists for New York City. The Campaign Finance Board (CFB) developed a system of online voter registration that does not require a photo ID. Unfortunately, it was superseded by state law that doesn’t go into effect until 2021. We do not have a year to wait.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9260-push-online-voter-registration-coronavirus-prevents-registration-drives-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There is a bill in the state Legislature</a> that would allow the CFB’s website to go live and accept voter registration applications in New York City. That bill should be passed and signed into law immediately, given the circumstances we find ourselves in. If the Legislature cannot do it, we urge Governor Cuomo to act via Executive Order.</p> <p>These are unique times, calling for creative and aggressive solutions, especially when it comes to protecting our democratic processes. We have just a few weeks to ensure strong participation in the June primaries. We have just five months to make sure we get this right for the general election in November that is expected to draw immense interest. A global pandemic will only weaken our democracy if we let it.</p> <p>***<br />Betsy Gotbaum is Executive Director of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, and former Public Advocate of New York City. As Executive Director of Citizens Union Foundation, she also serves as publisher of Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/mt-kitso-pre.jpg" alt="mt kitso pre" width="600" /></p> <p>New York has made some adjustments to voting amid COVID-19 (photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, including how we will vote this year. In times of crisis in a democracy, it is essential that we proceed with elections. At the same time, we can’t ask New Yorkers to put their health in jeopardy. Ensuring our elections run smoothly will require planning, resources, and flexibility.</p> <p>With a large slate of primary elections fast-approaching in June and the general election in the fall not far off, New Yorkers must know about recent changes and be prepared to vote safely. This will require additional reforms in the weeks and months ahead.</p> <p>On April 24, Governor Cuomo issued an order compelling Boards of Elections to mail an absentee ballot application to all eligible voters. This caused a lot of New Yorkers to scratch their heads. Wouldn’t it be easier (and cheaper) just to mail a ballot, rather than an application? Yes, but, the New York State constitution prohibits that from happening.&nbsp;</p> <p>We encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of expanded absentee voting for the June election. A coalition of civic groups and government offices <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/9406-what-new-york-city-voters-need-to-know-june-primary-elections" target="_blank">is boosting these efforts with a public education campaign</a> to raise awareness and explain the process so as many New Yorkers as possible vote by absentee ballot.&nbsp;</p> <p>But we also need New Yorkers who know -- like everyone reading this column -- to become absentee ballot ambassadors by simply spreading the word among their networks. It takes two minutes to post to Facebook, send a tweet, or even email a small list of people to make sure they know their options.</p> <p>In some areas, including New York City, you can apply for your absentee ballot online (<a href="https://www.nycabsentee.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">click here to fill out your form</a>). Voting absentee will not only minimize risk to public health, but also reduce stress on the Board of Elections, which will likely be operating with fewer poll workers.</p> <p>Since declaring a state of emergency, Governor Cuomo has issued 12 executive orders related to elections. Right now, the governor’s executive orders explicitly apply only to the June elections. However it is not too early to start thinking about the general election in the fall. To carefully manage public health risk, we need to allow everyone who wants to vote by mail this fall to do so.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>We also need to think about how to engage a new generation of voters. Presidential election years are typically when we see the highest spikes in voter registration, particularly among young people who are voting for the first time. Because of COVID-19, voter registration rates have dropped off precipitously.</p> <p>One barrier is that currently only residents with a New York State ID can register to vote online. This excludes 700,000 New York City residents, including many younger potential voters. The only other option currently available to the unregistered is printing out a form and mailing it in, which excludes the many New Yorkers without printers.</p> <p>We need to make it easier for new voters to register and vote. Luckily a solution already exists for New York City. The Campaign Finance Board (CFB) developed a system of online voter registration that does not require a photo ID. Unfortunately, it was superseded by state law that doesn’t go into effect until 2021. We do not have a year to wait.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9260-push-online-voter-registration-coronavirus-prevents-registration-drives-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">There is a bill in the state Legislature</a> that would allow the CFB’s website to go live and accept voter registration applications in New York City. That bill should be passed and signed into law immediately, given the circumstances we find ourselves in. If the Legislature cannot do it, we urge Governor Cuomo to act via Executive Order.</p> <p>These are unique times, calling for creative and aggressive solutions, especially when it comes to protecting our democratic processes. We have just a few weeks to ensure strong participation in the June primaries. We have just five months to make sure we get this right for the general election in November that is expected to draw immense interest. A global pandemic will only weaken our democracy if we let it.</p> <p>***<br />Betsy Gotbaum is Executive Director of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, and former Public Advocate of New York City. As Executive Director of Citizens Union Foundation, she also serves as publisher of Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Key Constitutional Obstacles to Efficient Reopening of New York Courts 2020-05-20T04:00:00+00:00 2020-05-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9411-constitutional-obstacles-efficient-reopening-new-york-courts-coronavirus Michael Cardozo kolehmainen@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/gov-deliever-chief.jpg" alt="gov deliever chief" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Important challenges when New York courts reopen (photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>When New York’s courts fully reopen they will face an overwhelming volume – delayed matters of all types, particularly trials; a vast number of new matters that were waiting to be initiated until the courts reopened; and cases stemming from the virus fallout including scores of breach of contract and related claims. Of particular concern is an estimated backlog of up to 80,000 family court suits.&nbsp;</p> <p>Adding to these problems may be a decrease in court staff resulting from state-mandated budget cuts. These problems will be substantially aggravated by the fact that Court officials will be powerless to correct one of the largest barriers to an efficient reopening of the courts: the limits imposed by the New York Constitution, an obstacle only a constitutional amendment can correct.</p> <p>Under a system dating back to the mid-19th century, New York today has 11 different trial courts; more than any other state in the nation. This system prevents the assignment of judges to decide cases where they are most needed — a problem during normal times all the more apparent in the post-pandemic planning.</p> <p>The Constitution provides that Family Court Judges decide only juvenile, domestic, child support and custody disputes. New York City Civil Court judges decide only civil cases involving less than $25,000. Criminal Court judges decide only misdemeanor cases. Court of Claims judges hear only suits against the State, and Surrogate Court judges hear only estate disputes. The State Supreme Court decides felony, tort, commercial, discrimination, and divorce cases. With the exception of divorce proceedings, County Court judges decide similar disputes.</p> <p>Family, Criminal, and Civil Court judges cannot decide any of the kinds of cases Supreme and County Courts can decide (family and civil court judges can issue orders of protection). Conversely, and of particular import, Supreme Court judges rarely hear family court disputes and Court of Claims and Surrogate Court judges never do.</p> <p>These constitutional restrictions will severely limit court administrators in assigning judges to sit where they will be most needed when the courts reopen. For example, while it can be anticipated that the already overburdened family courts, which will need substantially more judges to handle the backlog of family court cases and an increase of up to 30% of domestic violence disputes that arose during the pandemic, court officials in most instances will be unable to assign those cases to Surrogate, Court of Claims, or Supreme Court judges.</p> <p>Long before the present health crisis these constitutional provisions have been shown to create enormous unnecessary delay to litigants and prevent the assignment of judicial and non-judicial personnel to where they are most needed. The resulting societal costs have been estimated to amount to approximately $500 million annually. Those costs, and the impact on those seeking judicial relief, will be dramatically increased as the courts reopen.</p> <p>Thus, even if court officials want to assign judges from other courts to decide the thousands of delayed family disputes, and even if, in order to do so, decisions in commercial, estate, or tort litigations may be delayed, court administrators will find it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to assign a Supreme, Surrogate, Court of Claims, or County Court judge to decide what have been designated as higher priority cases. Under the Constitution these judges may lack the authority to resolve such matters.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, court officials may decide to make judges from the Criminal or Civil Courts “acting” Family Court judges where they will then have jurisdiction to decide Family Court cases. Not only will many of those judges lack the training to decide such matters, but to become “acting” Family Court judges will mean those judges will leave behind&nbsp; their pending docket of Civil or Criminal Court cases, imposing a further burden on the other judges left on those courts. And to compound this problem the Constitution imposes strict limits on the conditions that must be met before the Legislature may increase the number of&nbsp; Supreme Court judges even when there is a demonstrated need for such judges in a particular jurisdiction.</p> <p>These facts highlight the need for adoption of the constitutional amendment proposed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore in the fall of 2019. Her proposal, and the numerous other similar proposed court-simplification amendments put forth over the last 50 years, would eliminate the problems discussed above by consolidating the present 11 different trial courts into three.</p> <p>Family, County, Court of Claims, and Surrogate Court judges would all become Supreme Court judges with jurisdiction to decide major disputes of all types. Criminal, Civil, and District Court judges would become Municipal Court judges to decide smaller cases, and Town and Village Court judges would continue to decide minor cases in upstate rural areas. These changes would allow court administrators to assign judges where they are most needed. And the limits on creating more Supreme Court judgeships would be eliminated.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the-long overdue constitutional amendment proposed by the Chief Judge cannot be adopted until the end of 2021 at the earliest, so the changes such amendments would put in place won’t be available to deal with the reopening of the courts this year. But the inefficiencies identified above highlight the compelling need for these constitutional changes to be enacted.</p> <p>***<br />Michael A. Cardozo is a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and a member of the Board of Citizens Union. He served as Corporation Counsel under Mayor Bloomberg from 2002-2013.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/gov-deliever-chief.jpg" alt="gov deliever chief" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Important challenges when New York courts reopen (photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

</p> <p>When New York’s courts fully reopen they will face an overwhelming volume – delayed matters of all types, particularly trials; a vast number of new matters that were waiting to be initiated until the courts reopened; and cases stemming from the virus fallout including scores of breach of contract and related claims. Of particular concern is an estimated backlog of up to 80,000 family court suits.&nbsp;</p> <p>Adding to these problems may be a decrease in court staff resulting from state-mandated budget cuts. These problems will be substantially aggravated by the fact that Court officials will be powerless to correct one of the largest barriers to an efficient reopening of the courts: the limits imposed by the New York Constitution, an obstacle only a constitutional amendment can correct.</p> <p>Under a system dating back to the mid-19th century, New York today has 11 different trial courts; more than any other state in the nation. This system prevents the assignment of judges to decide cases where they are most needed — a problem during normal times all the more apparent in the post-pandemic planning.</p> <p>The Constitution provides that Family Court Judges decide only juvenile, domestic, child support and custody disputes. New York City Civil Court judges decide only civil cases involving less than $25,000. Criminal Court judges decide only misdemeanor cases. Court of Claims judges hear only suits against the State, and Surrogate Court judges hear only estate disputes. The State Supreme Court decides felony, tort, commercial, discrimination, and divorce cases. With the exception of divorce proceedings, County Court judges decide similar disputes.</p> <p>Family, Criminal, and Civil Court judges cannot decide any of the kinds of cases Supreme and County Courts can decide (family and civil court judges can issue orders of protection). Conversely, and of particular import, Supreme Court judges rarely hear family court disputes and Court of Claims and Surrogate Court judges never do.</p> <p>These constitutional restrictions will severely limit court administrators in assigning judges to sit where they will be most needed when the courts reopen. For example, while it can be anticipated that the already overburdened family courts, which will need substantially more judges to handle the backlog of family court cases and an increase of up to 30% of domestic violence disputes that arose during the pandemic, court officials in most instances will be unable to assign those cases to Surrogate, Court of Claims, or Supreme Court judges.</p> <p>Long before the present health crisis these constitutional provisions have been shown to create enormous unnecessary delay to litigants and prevent the assignment of judicial and non-judicial personnel to where they are most needed. The resulting societal costs have been estimated to amount to approximately $500 million annually. Those costs, and the impact on those seeking judicial relief, will be dramatically increased as the courts reopen.</p> <p>Thus, even if court officials want to assign judges from other courts to decide the thousands of delayed family disputes, and even if, in order to do so, decisions in commercial, estate, or tort litigations may be delayed, court administrators will find it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to assign a Supreme, Surrogate, Court of Claims, or County Court judge to decide what have been designated as higher priority cases. Under the Constitution these judges may lack the authority to resolve such matters.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, court officials may decide to make judges from the Criminal or Civil Courts “acting” Family Court judges where they will then have jurisdiction to decide Family Court cases. Not only will many of those judges lack the training to decide such matters, but to become “acting” Family Court judges will mean those judges will leave behind&nbsp; their pending docket of Civil or Criminal Court cases, imposing a further burden on the other judges left on those courts. And to compound this problem the Constitution imposes strict limits on the conditions that must be met before the Legislature may increase the number of&nbsp; Supreme Court judges even when there is a demonstrated need for such judges in a particular jurisdiction.</p> <p>These facts highlight the need for adoption of the constitutional amendment proposed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore in the fall of 2019. Her proposal, and the numerous other similar proposed court-simplification amendments put forth over the last 50 years, would eliminate the problems discussed above by consolidating the present 11 different trial courts into three.</p> <p>Family, County, Court of Claims, and Surrogate Court judges would all become Supreme Court judges with jurisdiction to decide major disputes of all types. Criminal, Civil, and District Court judges would become Municipal Court judges to decide smaller cases, and Town and Village Court judges would continue to decide minor cases in upstate rural areas. These changes would allow court administrators to assign judges where they are most needed. And the limits on creating more Supreme Court judgeships would be eliminated.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the-long overdue constitutional amendment proposed by the Chief Judge cannot be adopted until the end of 2021 at the earliest, so the changes such amendments would put in place won’t be available to deal with the reopening of the courts this year. But the inefficiencies identified above highlight the compelling need for these constitutional changes to be enacted.</p> <p>***<br />Michael A. Cardozo is a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and a member of the Board of Citizens Union. He served as Corporation Counsel under Mayor Bloomberg from 2002-2013.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Cuomo v. De Blasio: Who Has the Last Word on Reopening New York City? 2020-05-05T04:00:00+00:00 2020-05-05T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/153-citizens-union-speakers/9365-cuomo-de-blasio-who-has-last-word-on-reopening-new-york-city-coronavirus Randy Mastro rmastro@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/49609996881_d47b69cd99_c_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio coronavirus" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio at a March briefing (photo: Don Pollard/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>Turf battles between government executives occur all the time. But when it comes to a public health crisis like this pandemic, ultimate decision-making really matters, and lives are literally at stake. <br /><br />In the early days of this COVID-19 crisis and since, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have at times clashed over the timing of business shutdown orders and school closings, so the question arises, "Who has the final say over when and how New York City reopens?"<br /><br />Sorry, Mr. Mayor: It isn't you. Under well-established New York law, it's the Governor.<br /><br />That is not to say that the Mayor is without authority to act in such an emergency. New York State Executive Law Section 24 provides that a local "chief executive may promulgate local emergency orders to protect life and property or to bring [an] emergency situation under control," and the New York City Charter itself incorporates that same language.<br /><br />But the New York Court of Appeals has severely circumscribed municipal home rule, holding as recently as 2013 that the State's authority was paramount even over the City's local taxi medallion industry, reasoning that "the public health, safety and welfare of residents of the State of New York traveling to, from or within the City of New York" is "a matter of substantial State concern."<br /><br />So if the Governor wants to overrule the Mayor in this situation, he clearly can do so.<br /><br />Leaving no doubt about it, the State Legislature just two months ago amended New York State Executive Law 29-a to expand the Governor's power to respond to such an emergency. That statute now authorizes the Governor, "by executive order," to "temporarily suspend any state, local law, ordinance, or orders, rules or regulations, or parts thereof, of any agency, during a state disaster emergency, if compliance with such provisions would prevent, hinder, or delay action necessary to cope with the disaster or if necessary to assist or aid in coping with such disaster."<br /><br />The State Legislature explained that it intended by this amendment to allow "the governor" to issue "any directive necessary to respond to a state disaster emergency." That statute further provides that the Governor "may issue any directive during a state of disaster emergency declared" in an "epidemic," now defined to include a "disease outbreak."</p> <p>Thus, when Mayor de Blasio suggested in mid-March that&nbsp;he was considering a "shelter-in-place" order for New York City, Governor Cuomo sought to pre-empt the field by issuing <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/no-2025-continuing-temporary-suspension-and-modification-laws-relating-disaster-emergency" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an executive order</a> that "no locality or political subdivision shall issue any local emergency order" regarding COVID-19 "without the approval of the State Department of Health."<br /><br />As a result, it seems crystal clear that Governor Cuomo has the emergency authority to issue executive orders intended to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including overriding the requirements of existing laws and the directives of local officials like Mayor de Blasio for the duration of the crisis. And court decisions support that conclusion.<br /><br />For example, just last month, a state court judge ruled that "it is within the Governor's power to suspend th[e] statutory right" to a preliminary hearing "during a state emergency disaster." And nearly 20 years ago, another state court judge found that Governor Pataki had the power to suspend the Speedy Trial Act in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.<br /><br />Of course, the State Legislature remains free to check the Governor by taking back the power it gave him. Indeed, it expressly provided in Executive Law 29-a that it "may terminate by concurrent resolution executive orders issued under [that statute] at any time." In reality, though, the State Legislature gave the Governor that power and even expanded it in the early days of this COVID-19 crisis, so that is not going to happen anytime soon.<br /><br />In other words, within New York State, Governor Cuomo really does have the "total authority" that President Trump claimed over all 50 states to direct emergency response during this pandemic. And there's nothing Mayor de Blasio can do to cross him because the Governor can override any of the Mayor's moves to address this emergency disaster. So in this chess match between political heavyweights, it's checkmate for Cuomo.<br /><br />***<br />Randy Mastro is the Chair of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, a former New York City Deputy Mayor, and a current partner at Gibson Dunn &amp; Crutcher LLP.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/49609996881_d47b69cd99_c_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio coronavirus" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio at a March briefing (photo: Don Pollard/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>

This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p>Turf battles between government executives occur all the time. But when it comes to a public health crisis like this pandemic, ultimate decision-making really matters, and lives are literally at stake. <br /><br />In the early days of this COVID-19 crisis and since, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have at times clashed over the timing of business shutdown orders and school closings, so the question arises, "Who has the final say over when and how New York City reopens?"<br /><br />Sorry, Mr. Mayor: It isn't you. Under well-established New York law, it's the Governor.<br /><br />That is not to say that the Mayor is without authority to act in such an emergency. New York State Executive Law Section 24 provides that a local "chief executive may promulgate local emergency orders to protect life and property or to bring [an] emergency situation under control," and the New York City Charter itself incorporates that same language.<br /><br />But the New York Court of Appeals has severely circumscribed municipal home rule, holding as recently as 2013 that the State's authority was paramount even over the City's local taxi medallion industry, reasoning that "the public health, safety and welfare of residents of the State of New York traveling to, from or within the City of New York" is "a matter of substantial State concern."<br /><br />So if the Governor wants to overrule the Mayor in this situation, he clearly can do so.<br /><br />Leaving no doubt about it, the State Legislature just two months ago amended New York State Executive Law 29-a to expand the Governor's power to respond to such an emergency. That statute now authorizes the Governor, "by executive order," to "temporarily suspend any state, local law, ordinance, or orders, rules or regulations, or parts thereof, of any agency, during a state disaster emergency, if compliance with such provisions would prevent, hinder, or delay action necessary to cope with the disaster or if necessary to assist or aid in coping with such disaster."<br /><br />The State Legislature explained that it intended by this amendment to allow "the governor" to issue "any directive necessary to respond to a state disaster emergency." That statute further provides that the Governor "may issue any directive during a state of disaster emergency declared" in an "epidemic," now defined to include a "disease outbreak."</p> <p>Thus, when Mayor de Blasio suggested in mid-March that&nbsp;he was considering a "shelter-in-place" order for New York City, Governor Cuomo sought to pre-empt the field by issuing <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/no-2025-continuing-temporary-suspension-and-modification-laws-relating-disaster-emergency" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an executive order</a> that "no locality or political subdivision shall issue any local emergency order" regarding COVID-19 "without the approval of the State Department of Health."<br /><br />As a result, it seems crystal clear that Governor Cuomo has the emergency authority to issue executive orders intended to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including overriding the requirements of existing laws and the directives of local officials like Mayor de Blasio for the duration of the crisis. And court decisions support that conclusion.<br /><br />For example, just last month, a state court judge ruled that "it is within the Governor's power to suspend th[e] statutory right" to a preliminary hearing "during a state emergency disaster." And nearly 20 years ago, another state court judge found that Governor Pataki had the power to suspend the Speedy Trial Act in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.<br /><br />Of course, the State Legislature remains free to check the Governor by taking back the power it gave him. Indeed, it expressly provided in Executive Law 29-a that it "may terminate by concurrent resolution executive orders issued under [that statute] at any time." In reality, though, the State Legislature gave the Governor that power and even expanded it in the early days of this COVID-19 crisis, so that is not going to happen anytime soon.<br /><br />In other words, within New York State, Governor Cuomo really does have the "total authority" that President Trump claimed over all 50 states to direct emergency response during this pandemic. And there's nothing Mayor de Blasio can do to cross him because the Governor can override any of the Mayor's moves to address this emergency disaster. So in this chess match between political heavyweights, it's checkmate for Cuomo.<br /><br />***<br />Randy Mastro is the Chair of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, a former New York City Deputy Mayor, and a current partner at Gibson Dunn &amp; Crutcher LLP.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

***
This guest column is part of Citizens Union Speakers, a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community in Gotham Gazette, CUF's flagship public education program. The opinions expressed in these Citizens Union Speakers columns are those of the authors alone, not Citizens Union Foundation, Gotham Gazette, or any other entity.

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Citizens Union Speakers 2001-01-01T05:00:00+00:00 2001-01-01T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/columnists/citizens-union-speakers Gotham Gazette Staff ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <h1 style="color: #0063cf;">Articles</h1> <table style="width: 550px;" border="0" cellspacing="10" cellpadding="10"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/153-citizens-union-speakers/11405-new-york-governor-election-primaries-citizens-union" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/opportunity-great-choices.jpg" alt="New York’s Opportunity to Advance Two Great Choices in the General Election for Governor" width="200" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/153-citizens-union-speakers/11405-new-york-governor-election-primaries-citizens-union" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York’s Opportunity to Advance Two Great Choices in the General Election for Governor</a></p> <p>by Randy Mastro</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/10402-30-years-after-rodney-king-bracing-floyd-chauvin-verdicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/april/police-comm-availability.jpg" alt="30 Years After Rodney King, Bracing for Another Set of Verdicts" width="200" height="134" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/10402-30-years-after-rodney-king-bracing-floyd-chauvin-verdicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 Years After Rodney King, Bracing for Another Set of Verdicts</a></p> <p>by Hector Soto</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9866-representing-clients-randy-mastro-homeless-lucerne-home-vandalized-shelters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/april/us-bernie-choose12.jpg" alt="us bernie choose12" width="200" height="134" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/10329-choosing-next-nyc-mayor-most-important-issues-new-yorkers-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Choosing Our Next Mayor: The Most Important Issues New Yorkers Need to Hear About from the Candidates</a></p> <p>by Randy Mastro</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/9727-new-york-city-civic-education-crisis-schools-democracy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/mayor-along-hg.jpg" alt="1 biaggi voters b" width="200" height="115" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/9727-new-york-city-civic-education-crisis-schools-democracy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> New York’s Civic Education Crisis</a></p> <p>by Michael A. Cardozo</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9672-11-keys-to-make-policing-work-nypd-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/paper-recy-si.jpg" alt="1 biaggi voters b" width="200" height="115" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/9684-new-york-amend-law-requiring-police-disciplinary-cases-tried-within-nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Should Amend the Law Requiring Police Disciplinary Cases Be Tried Within the Police Department</a></p> <p>by Frederick P. Schaffer</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9672-11-keys-to-make-policing-work-nypd-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/chief-department-avail.jpg" alt="1 biaggi voters b" width="200" height="115" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9672-11-keys-to-make-policing-work-nypd-reform">11 Keys to Make Policing Work</a></p> <p>by Richard J. Davis</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/participate-electoral-college.jpg" alt="1 biaggi voters b" width="200" height="115" /></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9652-trump-cant-postpone-2020-presidential-election-congress-needs-funding">No, Trump Can’t Postpone the Election, But Congress Needs to Fund It</a></p> <p>by Richard Briffault</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/lynching_protest_2.jpeg" alt="1 biaggi voters b" width="200" height="115" /></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9619-answer-to-terror-lynchings-racial-psychopathy-of-white-supremacy-reparations-racism">An Overdue Answer to Terror Lynchings and the Racial Psychopathy of ‘White Supremacy’</a></p> <p>by Jim Walden</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/trump-biden.jpg" alt="2 partii bowman" width="200" height="115" /></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9556-citizens-union-unprecedented-leap-into-presidential-politics-2020">Compelled to Act: An Unprecedented Leap Into Presidential Politics</a></p> <p>by Randy Mastro</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/pd-grad-cer.jpg" alt="3 pandemic c" width="200" height="126" /></td> <td> </td> <td valign="top style="> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9466-repeal-section-50-a-new-york-civil-rights-law">The Time Has Come to Repeal Section 50-A of New York’s Civil Rights Law</a></p> <p>by Frederick Schaffer</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/mt-kitso-pre.jpg" alt="3 pandemic c" width="200" height="126" /></td> <td> </td> <td valign="top style="> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9414-voting-in-coronavirus-pandemic-how-new-york-and-new-yorkers-must-lead-the-way">Voting in a Pandemic: How New York, and New Yorkers, Must Lead the Way</a></p> <p>by Betsy Gotbaum</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/gov-deliever-chief.jpg" alt="2 partii bowman" width="200" height="115" /></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9411-constitutional-obstacles-efficient-reopening-new-york-courts-coronavirus">Key Constitutional Obstacles to Efficient Reopening of New York Courts</a></p> <p>by Michael Cardozo</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/49609996881_d47b69cd99_c_1.jpg" alt="3 pandemic c" width="200" height="126" /></td> <td> </td> <td valign="top style="> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9365-cuomo-de-blasio-who-has-last-word-on-reopening-new-york-city-coronavirus">Cuomo v. De Blasio: Who Has the Last Word on Reopening New York City?</a></p> <p>by Randy Mastro</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h1 style="color: #0063cf;">Articles</h1> <table style="width: 550px;" border="0" cellspacing="10" cellpadding="10"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/153-citizens-union-speakers/11405-new-york-governor-election-primaries-citizens-union" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/opportunity-great-choices.jpg" alt="New York’s Opportunity to Advance Two Great Choices in the General Election for Governor" width="200" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/153-citizens-union-speakers/11405-new-york-governor-election-primaries-citizens-union" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York’s Opportunity to Advance Two Great Choices in the General Election for Governor</a></p> <p>by Randy Mastro</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/10402-30-years-after-rodney-king-bracing-floyd-chauvin-verdicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/april/police-comm-availability.jpg" alt="30 Years After Rodney King, Bracing for Another Set of Verdicts" width="200" height="134" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/10402-30-years-after-rodney-king-bracing-floyd-chauvin-verdicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 Years After Rodney King, Bracing for Another Set of Verdicts</a></p> <p>by Hector Soto</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9866-representing-clients-randy-mastro-homeless-lucerne-home-vandalized-shelters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/april/us-bernie-choose12.jpg" alt="us bernie choose12" width="200" height="134" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/10329-choosing-next-nyc-mayor-most-important-issues-new-yorkers-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Choosing Our Next Mayor: The Most Important Issues New Yorkers Need to Hear About from the Candidates</a></p> <p>by Randy Mastro</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/9727-new-york-city-civic-education-crisis-schools-democracy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/mayor-along-hg.jpg" alt="1 biaggi voters b" width="200" height="115" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/9727-new-york-city-civic-education-crisis-schools-democracy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> New York’s Civic Education Crisis</a></p> <p>by Michael A. Cardozo</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> </td> <td> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="width: 200px;" valign="top"><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/9672-11-keys-to-make-policing-work-nypd-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/paper-recy-si.jpg" alt="1 biaggi voters b" width="200" height="115" /></a></td> <td> </td> <td style="margin-left: 10px;" valign="top"> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/citizens-union-speakers/153-citizens-union-speakers/9684-new-york-amend-law-requiring-police-disciplinary-cases-tried-within-nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Should Amend the Law Requiring Police Disciplinary Cases Be Tried Within the Police Department</a></p> <p>by Frederick P. 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